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A masterpiece of Brabant Gothic architecture, this towering edifice, the largest church in the Benelux lands, is simply stunning, and you can see it from far outside the city. Begun in 1352 and completed by around 1520, it stands on the site of a 10th-century chapel dedicated to the Virgin that grew to be a church in the Romanesque style. There are seven aisles and 125 pillars, but of the original design's five towers, only one was completed. This one is the tallest church spire in the Low Countries, 123m (403 ft.) high, and the idea that the designers could have planned to construct five such behemoths is a graphic indication of the wealth and power of Antwerp at that time.

The cathedral's history includes a destructive fire in 1533, devastation by iconoclasts during the religious wars of the 16th century, deconsecration by anticlerical French revolutionaries in 1794 (resulting in the removal of its Rubens paintings), and a slow rebirth that began after Napoleon's defeat in 1815. Its interior embellishment is a mix of baroque and neoclassical. Today the cathedral houses four Rubens masterpieces, all of them altarpieces: The Raising of the Cross (1610), The Descent from the Cross (1614), The Resurrection of Christ (1612), and the Ascension of the Virgin (1626). Nicolas Rombouts's Last Supper (1503), an impressive stained-glass window, is also outstanding. Among many other notable works of art is a superb Madonna and Child (ca. 1350) in Carrara marble, by the anonymous Master of the Maasland marble Madonnas. During July and August the cathedral bells peal out in a carillon concert on Sunday from 3 to 4pm and on Monday from 8 to 9pm.