The history of the GO! Royal Atheneum of Antwerp

Every resident of Antwerp knows ‘Den Athenee’, the GO! Royal Atheneum on the Rooseveltplaats. If not because of its rich social past and illustrious group of former pupils, then at least because of the impressive architecture in the heart of the city.

The school was founded in 1807 by Napoleon and was the first government school in the country.
After having previously been located on Sint-Jacobsmarkt, it positioned itself centrally on the Rooseveltplaats . Upon taking office on 2 September 1872, the liberal mayor Leopold de Wael declared that the Atheneum should be given a proper new building. It was not until 1880, however, that the city council decided to do something about it.

The school was to be located on the Gemeenteplaats, today’s Franklin Rooseveltplein.
Experts, including city architect Pieter Dens, visited similar institutions in the Netherlands, France and Germany. Dens eventually designed the building, which was inaugurated in 1884. It consists of the front half of the present complex. The first lessons took place on October 7, 1884.

As if it were predestined, the idea of liberalism, tolerance and pluralism ‘avant la lettre’ grew in the Atheneum.
The Atheneum took the lead in the appreciation of the Flemish national character. It took the lead in the Dutchification of education and became a centre where the Flemish Movement of the time could grow. But … just as the diversity of the city’s inhabitants has changed over the years, so the bastion of Flemish nationalism and liberality has evolved into a fascinating, colourful multicultural school with pupils from more than 50 nationalities.

Today, mindful of its history and DNA of freedom, free enquiry and tolerance, the school advocates active pluralism and equal opportunities.

“He who is happy
lives in a world of possibilities”
– Leo Apostel


There are many well-known names associated with the GO! Royal Atheneum of Antwerp.
Poets and writers like Paul Van Ostaijen, Lode Baekelmans and Willem Elsschot, philosophers and jurists like Leo Apostel and René Victor, artists like Eugeen Van Mieghem and Herman Selleslags, but also politicians like Louis Franck, Paul Kronacker, Albert Lilar, Frans Grootjans and the mayors Lode Craeybeckx and Frans Detiège attended our school. There are many stories to tell about these former pupils. You can read them here.

Zaal AthenA

With its impressive monastic structure, the athenaeum is a bastion of peace and inspiration for pupils, former pupils, school partners and, in a broad sense, for all Antwerp citizens.

The school also has a unique hall, Zaal AthenA.
On 16 May 2014, AthenA rose like a phoenix from its ashes after a fierce fire and a long period of renovation. The drama, the ruin left behind by the fire, is still visible. The walls are permeated with the stories that originated in AthenA’s lap. This glorious past is now the backdrop for art, science and free speech.

The impressive interior that transformed the destruction into an aesthetic masterpiece, the many histories that took place there and, above all, the world-class art that you can see there, make Zaal AthenA a must-see. The highlight is the work ‘Munich’ by Luc Tuymans.

Hall AthenA is open for both public and private events. The hall can be hired for a variety of events, from congresses to study days, from staff parties to business events. With its contemporary equipment, technical facilities, modern furniture and catering possibilities, AthenA pampers everyone.

On the website of Zaal AthenA you will find all the necessary information.