HANTWERPEN, the legend
Right up and into the 17th Century Antwerp was often spelt as ‘Hantwerpen’. Hardly surprising really, because according to an old legend this was the way it should be.
Legend has it that at the beginning of time the bend in the River Scheldt was in hands of the giant Antigoon, who demanded a heavy toll from each passing shipmaster. Those who refused to pay had a hand chopped off. A Roman soldier, Silvius Brabo, brought an end to this awful practice, by slaying the giant, chopping off his hand and throwing it into the river. Hence ‘Hantwerpen’ or ‘hand throwing’. The H disappeared over time, but ‘Antwerpen’ stuck. So much for the legend.
In reality the name Antwerpen probably derives from the word ‘aanwerp’, an alluvial mound in the River Schelt, at the height of the Steen, which was the site of an early settlement. Towards the end of the 19th Century this alluvial mound disappeared when the quays of the River Scheldt were straightened. Though the story of Brabo is complete fiction, the ‘Sinjoren’ nevertheless still pay tribute to their legendary liberator on the Grote Markt (the square in front of the town hall). The bronze fountain (1887) was created by Antwerp sculptor Jef Lambeaux