The Het Steen (medieval castle/museum) is classified as the oldest building (fortress) in Antwerp, and was once referred to as Antwerp Castle. The castle was built somewhere between 1200 and 1225 and became part of the fortifications in the west of the Holy Roman Empire. Over the centuries the castle had many lives, including that of a prison (1303 to 1827) where condemned convicts were executed. The famous Belgian painter Pieter Paul Rubens actually lived in the castle near the end of his life. The Het Steen was named about 1520 when it underwent some major renovations under the guidance of Charles V. Because of the extensive overhaul to the castle it became knows as "s Heeren Steen" meaning the King's Stone. Over time this was shortened to Het Steen (the Stone).
The Het Steen is now the home of the National Scheepvaartmuseum (Belgian National Maritime Museum). The rather odd thing about the looks of this castle is the renovations done in the 16th century. You can tell the older stonework from the newer by looking at the color of the stones. This is quite evident when you take pictures of this museum/castle. You will also find a large cross where convicts prayed before being executed. By the way, the Het Steen is the castle that appears on Antwerp's coat of arms (along with a pair of severed hands).
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