Belgium's largest Gothic church and the largest of its kind in the Netherlands, stands a short distance southeast from the Grote Market. Work was started on the cathedral in 1352, continuing until 1521. Jacob van Thienen, Pieter Appelmans, Jan Tac, Everaert Spoorwater, Hermann and Dominic de Waghemakere and Rombout Keldermans were among the architects and masterbuilders who contributed to its construction.
The church has suffered serious damage on a number of occasions over the years, depriving it of many of its most precious works of art. First came a fire in 1533, then despoliation at the hands of dissident iconoclasts in 1566, Calvinist in 1581 and French Republic troops in 1794 and 1800. Sadly, only a few of the lost treasures have been recovered.
Restoration of the exterior was begun in the 19 c. and all the carved stonework on the outside of the building is therefore recent. Work on the interior began in 1965, starting with the nave where repairs were completed in 1983. Currently, the choir and transepts are being restored and will not be fully accessible for quite some time. The finest of the remaining works of art are meanwhile displayed in the nave and aisles as well as the cathedral treasury.