The beautiful 16th-century Hof van Liere and the adjacent historic buildings, which were constructed by the Jesuits in the 17th century, are an oasis of calm in the bustling city centre.
The central Hof Van Liere, on the University of Antwerp’s Stadscampus, belongs to Antwerp’s cultural-historical patrimony. The regal building was built in 1516, commissioned by the Mayor of Antwerp at that time, Aert van Liere. Antwerp was on the threshold of its ‘golden’ 16th century, a fact that is evidenced by this beautiful building in the Brabant Gothic style.
- Responsibility for the design of the Prinsenhof – Prince’s Court - was given to architect Dominicus de Waghemaeckere, but the building’s realisation actually occurred in a number of phases. The oldest part of the building is the internal courtyard on the west side. It has a gallery with five 3-lobed arches and slender columns. Its tower probably made the courtyard a landmark in those times, being much higher then than it is now: in 1660, the tower was demolished having become dilapidated. The well likely indicates where the kitchen would formerly have been located.
- Following the deaths of Aert van Liere and his wife, the Hof van Liere became the property of the city. It was first made available to a banking family from Milan, and later to the English guild. When the English guild left the city after the sack of Antwerp, a new era began for the Prinsenhof.
- The Jesuits had founded a secondary school in Antwerp in 1575, but it quickly outgrew its buildings and the rector set his sights on the Hof van Liere. The complex of buildings was extended and adapted to suit the needs of a boarding school. This new era came to an abrupt end, however, when the Pope dissolved the Jesuit order. The Prinsenhof became a military academy, and even served later as a military hospital.
- In 1929, history began to repeat itself. Jesuits from the Saint Ignatius College of Commerce were looking for new accommodation, and found it in the Hof van Liere. They restored the shabby buildings and adapted them to meet modern educational and research requirements. The results are reminiscent of the renowned colleges of Oxford and Cambridge.
- In 1988, the Prinsenhof was bought by the University Faculties of Saint Ignatius (UFSIA). The wings around the inner courtyard were once again restored and renovated.
- In 2003, Antwerp’s three big universities merged to become one institution: the University of Antwerp.
- In 2007, the University of Antwerp’s department for Catering and Convention Halls opened the university’s exclusive restaurant, the University Club, in the Hof van Liere.
- Since 2009, the University of Antwerp’s department for Catering and Convention Halls has had ten different spaces available for hire with corresponding catering services. The unique location of the Hof van Liere gives these venues a special added value for both national and international conventions.