Antwerp Cathedral Tower freed of scaffolding

The unique tower of of the Cathedral of Our Lady of Antwerp has been freed of scaffolding. 

In recent weeks, the scaffolding around the tower of the Cathedral of Our Lady was demolished after the complete restoration of the exterior. Now the largest Gothic tower in the Low Lands can be admired again in all its glory.

At the beginning of 2019, the city started the restoration of the exterior of the large tower (belfry tower) of the Antwerp Cathedral that it manages. Almost four years later, this titanic work has been completed and the iconic tower is once again fully visible to residents and visitors in the Antwerp skyline.

Natural stone, pointing and gilded elements

All natural stone was gently cleaned, checked and where necessary restored or replaced. The contractor used just over 100 cubic meters of new natural stone, the French limestone Massangis Roche Jaune Clair. He also placed more than 750 bouchons or indemnities. That is the local replacement of pieces of natural stone where possible, to avoid having to replace an entire block.

In addition, the contractor locally renewed the jointing of the upper half of the tower; in the lower half, given the poor condition, he had to completely renew the jointing.

The dials, the weather vane and the cross have been restored and re-gilded in a workshop. For example, the weather vane has been on the spire again since October 2020 and since July of this year everyone has been able to read the time on the historic dials from 1861.

Because efficient use could be made of the scaffolding, the still functioning, but outdated lightning conductor was also replaced during the construction period. 1077 meters of new copper pipes ensure that lightning is diverted and cannot cause damage to the tower.

Cathedral tower in May 2022.

Unforeseen circumstances

In addition to the COVID-19 pandemic, some unforeseen circumstances resulted in an extension of the construction period:

  • The amount of natural stone to be replaced was much larger than initially estimated. Only from the scaffolding and after cleaning the facades could all the damage be mapped.
  • A replica of the cross was made because the existing one was in too bad a condition to restore. The city has donated the old cross to the cathedral so that it can be displayed in a museum for the public.
  • At a height of 100 meters, local cracks were found in the natural stone near the anchoring of the tension anchors (5th articulation vault). Tensile anchors ensure that the pillars of the vault do not buckle outwards due to the horizontal force (splash force) exerted on them. The complete replacement of these four pairs of tension anchors was necessary.
  • A buttress/flying buttress of the spire is added to the vault of the stair turret on the second gallery. The upper layers of stone under the vault were in very bad condition and had to be replaced. This could only be done if the load reduction of the buttress on the vault was temporarily diverted beforehand.
  • In July 2022, the carillon was put back into use and carillon music once again sounded in the city. After a while, however, a carillonneur noticed that one of the bells sounded dull. After investigation, it turned out that the bell tower had sunk a little locally due to wood rot (an earlier press release about this can be found here). Since there are 47 carillon bells with a total weight of approximately 20 tons hanging in the belfry, replacing the damaged beams without removing the bells was not an easy job. The result is a beautiful piece of traditional joinery in which the bell tower has been returned to its original state.

To celebrate that the carillon can ring again and the restoration has been completed, carillonneur Liesbeth Janssens played an extra concert.

City of Antwerp Alderman for Patrimony Annick De Ridder (N-VA): “‘Born in your shadow and so closely related to you’, La Esterella sang about Our Lady’s Tower. We are therefore very pleased that after all the necessary interventions on the belfry tower, the cathedral is once again revealing itself as the proud lady she was for centuries. As proud Antwerp residents, we cherish our patrimony and ensure that the city and all its inhabitants and visitors can enjoy the cathedral and its sweet-voiced carillon for a very long time to come.”

Antwerp Cathedral tower on 19.12.2022.

On the look of Antwerp

6 Comments Add yours

  1. Famo says:

    Finally! Looking forward to seeing that beauty again 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Timothy says:

      Do you have firm plans for a homecoming?

      Like

      1. Famo says:

        February for 3 weeks

        Liked by 1 person

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