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Of the Former Sint-Elisabeth Hospital

Of the Former
Sint-Elisabeth Hospital

This institution has been located on the same site since 1238 and has a vast history. The site was originally called alnetum (alder grove), later Elzenveld. The Elzenveld centre is located in the heart of Antwerp. It is a short distance from the Groenplaats and the Handschoenmarkt, the Grote Markt and the Scheldt Quays.

The first Hospitale infirmorum was founded in Antwerp in the early 13th century near the then Romanesque Church of Our Lady. Due to lack of space and risk of contamination, it moved to Elzenveld in 1238, which was outside the city walls at that time. In 1258 the lay community of brothers and sisters accepted the rule of Saint Augustine. The city expanded so the institution eventually found itself back within the city walls. Nothing is left of the original hospital. The oldest building part on the site is the chapel, erected around 1400 and extended by a spacious choir section in 1442-1460. This was followed by the construction of the oldest remaining hospital wards, the monastery, the rectory and the rental houses around the complex.

BOTANIC History Hospital Saint Elisabeth

The religious institution was dissolved in 1797, and the property declared forfeited. The hospital was placed under the administration of the Burgerlijk Godshuizen, the predecessor of the current Public Centre for Social Welfare (OCMW), which is how the Elzenveld came into their possession and management. The monastery building was frequently enlarged and remodelled over the centuries. The history dates from the 16th century. The religious order left the monastery on 12 January 1989 and settled in a new rest home.

Botanic Sanctuary Antwerp History
  • 1226:
    As detailed in Antwerp’s oldest document, permission was granted for the establishment of a hospital in the vicinity of the Church (now Cathedral) of Our Lady in 1226.

  • 1233:
    Needing more space, the hospital acquired a site on the Elzenveld (alder grove). The city added community land, and a complex of buildings was erected, including refectories, dormitories, a chapel, cemetery, a chaplains’ residence, stables, barns and residences for pensioners.

  • 1238:
    The hospital moved to the Elzenveld site, which was located outside the city gates at the time. This is considered the starting date for the Sint-Elisabeth Hospital, named after Saint Elisabeth of Hungary.

  • 1400-1442:
    Construction of the historical chapel in two phases: nave in ca. 1400 and the choir in 1442.

  • 1460-1484:
    Construction of the Gothic infirmary (15th century infirmary).

  • 1502:
    Construction of the chapel in the Gothic infirmary.

  • 1509:
    Construction of the 16th century infirmary.

Botanic Sanctuary Antwerp History
Botanic Sanctuary Antwerp History
  • 16th c.:
    The apothecary Pieter Coudenberg establishes a medicinal garden for the hospital. This is where the history of today’s Botanical Garden begins.

  • Mid-16th c.:
    Construction of rental houses on what are now Mechelseplein and Sint-Jorispoort.

  • 1565:
    Chapel and hospital are shown on a map of Antwerp made by Virgilius Bononiensis in 1565. The buildings lie within the city wall and the garden is planted with trees.

  • 1583-1584:
    Construction of the Marnixhuis, residence of the Lord Mayor of Antwerp, Filips van Marnix of Sint-Aldegonde (1540-1598).

  • Mid-17th c.:
    Construction of the brick and sandstone rectory and monastery.

  • 1622-1629:
    Construction of a nun’s choir in the hospital chapel.

  • 1771-1777:
    The hospital is shown in plan on the Ferraris map.

  • 1798:
    In 1798, ‘de burgerlijke godshuizen’ (civil places of worship, later COO and OCMW) took over the management of the hospital.

Botanic Sanctuary Antwerp History
Botanic Sanctuary Antwerp History
  • 1825:
    An 1825 plan of the hospital site shows new building parts, as well as those to be demolished. In 1825 and later, the existing buildings were adapted and converted, but new spaces were also constructed. Construction of the Leopoldstraat complex designed by architect Pierre Bruno Bourla (since demolished). Most of the building consisted of the women’s baths, delivery room, ‘king’s room’ for women and midwifery amphitheatre.

  • 1826:
    The medicinal garden area included a coach house, sheds, stables and a laundry. Construction of a connecting corridor between the kitchen and the women’s building against the houses on Sint-Jorispoort. The historical garden at Leopoldstraat 24 was laid out in 1826 and listed in 1950. The entrance gate to the Botanical Garden built on the Sint-Elisabeth hotel’s kitchen garden was designed by Pierre Bruno Bourla.

  • 1830-1834:
    Construction of the natural sciences hall (since demolished).

  • 1836:
    Completion of the new, neoclassical hospital facade on Lange Gasthuisstraat designed by Louis Serrure (1799-1845).

  • 1838:
    Construction of the closing wall between the hospital and the herb garden.

  • 1839:
    Extension of the Leopoldstraat building designed by Petrus Erkes.

  • 1847:
    Extension of the nun’s infirmary into the monastery.

Botanic Sanctuary Antwerp History
Botanic Sanctuary Antwerp History
  • 1848:
    History in the making: Expansion of the hospital, new pharmacy, three hospital wards, an outbuilding, and various facilities (waiting rooms, sitting room, laundry, cabinet, amphitheatre and student accommodation).

  • 1855-1856:
    Construction of the wing parallel to Sint-Jorispoort.

  • 1868:
    Addition of a new or renovation of an existing kitchen.

  • 1871:
    Completion of a new mortuary and accommodation for gardeners.

  • 1876-1877:
    Balustrade with candelabra by Pieter Dens.

  • 1884:
    Construction of orangery designed by Gustave Royers in the Botanical Garden.

  • 1886:
    Renovation of the wing parallel to Sint-Jorispoort.

  • 1893:
    Creation of a separate toilet building to service nine wards.

  • 1901-1905:
    Construction of a glass canopy along the wards and at the entrance to the hospital.

  • 1913:
    Construction of the main pharmacy building under the supervision of architect Ferdinand Dermond.

  • 1938:
    Thorough renovation of the wing parallel to Sint-Jorispoort.

Botanic Sanctuary Antwerp History
Botanic Sanctuary Antwerp History

Early 20th century restoration works

  • 1940-1945:
    Restoration work on the exterior facades of the chapel, monastery and rectory led by architect Fritz van Averbeke.

    Restoration of the Gothic infirmary, chapel, restoration of the roof of the 17th century sleeping quarters (nun’s choir, secondary choir in the chapel).

A recent history: Late 20th and early 21st restoration and renovation works

  • 1974:
    Lange Gasthuisstraat 35, 37, 39 purchased by OCMW (Public Centre for Social Welfare) Antwerp.

  • 1975:
    Decision to build a new hospital.

  • 1980-1986:
    Demolition of most of the 19th century buildings, and construction of a hospital along Leopoldstraat.

  • 1983-1984:
    Urgent maintenance works to the chapel.

  • 1983-1986:
    Restoration work to the 15th century Gothic infirmary and 16th century infirmary.

Botanic Sanctuary Antwerp History
Botanic Sanctuary Antwerp History
  • 1986:
    The current hospital is opened.

  • 1987:
    Restoration of the rectory, blue stairwell and principal beams of the 15th century Gothic infirmary.

  • 1988:
    Demolition of 19th century buildings along Leopoldstraat, and construction of the second phase of the new hospital building.

  • 1989-1990:
    After the hospital nuns left the site in 1989, the buildings served as a convention centre and hotel. Renovation and partial demolition of the 19th  century pharmacy building, lifts and stairs.

  • 1990:
    Kitchen restoration including recycled tile floor and preservation of 17th and early 18th century wall tiles.

  • 1991-1994:
    Restoration and renovation by architect Georges Baines of the 19th century Sint-Jorispand wing.

  • 1991-1992:
    Restoration of the chapel’s stained-glass windows.

  • 1992:
    Construction of car parking beneath the courtyard between the old and new hospitals. Part of the 19th century monastery kitchen and part of the Sint-Jorispand wing had to be demolished to facilitate these works.

  • 1993:
    Construction of connecting corridor between the kitchen and the Sint-Jorispand wing by architect Georges Baines.

Botanic Sanctuary Antwerp History
Botanic Sanctuary Antwerp History
  • 1995-1996:
    The Van Laerzaal conference room added in the top floor of the 19th century pharmacy.

  • 1996-1997:
    Integration of Sint-Jorispoort 29, a residential building, into the Sint Jorispand wing as an entrance hall and bookshop. Design by Georges Baines.

  • 1999-2001:
    Lobby and cloakrooms extension designed by Philippe Dinet, Foubert and partners. The monastery basement was made deeper.

  • 2001-2018:
    Hotel Elzenveld.

  • 2019-2021:
    Creation of Botanic Sanctuary Antwerp by IRET Development under supervision of Mr Eric De Vocht, together with AIDarchitecten under supervision of Mr Gerd Van Zundert.