Ghent is a city of history. During the Middle Ages, it was one of the richest
and most powerful cities in Europe. It was once considered the second largest
city north of the alps, after Paris. Its pedestrianized center is known for
medieval architecture such as 12th-century Gravensteen castle and the
Graslei, a row of guildhalls beside
the Leie river harbor. Today, Ghent is a city with a population of a
quarter of a million, and it is also a university city with more than 60,000
Gravensteen (means "castle of the counts" in Dutch) was built in 1180 by
count Philip of Alsace and was modeled after the crusaders castles that
Philip of Alsace encountered while he participated in the second crusade.
The castle served as the seat of the Counts of Flanders until they abandoned
it in the 14th century. The castle was then used as a courthouse, a prison
and eventually decayed. At the end of the 19th century, the castle was
scheduled to be demolished. In 1885 the city of Ghent bought the castle and
started a renovation project, and In 1907 the restored parts of the
Gravensteen were opened to the public. Inside is a museum of "Judicial
Objects" (which means torture devices...) and collections of medieval armory
and weapons used in Flanders.
- Saint Nicholas' Church (Sint-Niklaaskerk)
After lunch beside the Leie
River, we walked to the old city center where three historical buildings are
aligned and dominate the skyline of Ghent:
Saint Nicholas' Church, Belfry of Ghent, and Saint Bavo's Cathedral.
first church in the place of the present Saint Nicholas' Church dates back to the 12th
century. It was a simple three-legged crucifix in Romanesque style. At
the beginning of the 13th century, the construction of the new church
began. It was raised in several stages: first it was built in a early-Gothic
style, than the crossbeam, the celebration tower and the chore in the
building style of the Scheldt Gothic.
- Belfry of Ghent (Het Belfort van Gent)
91-meter tall Belfry of Ghent is the tallest belfry in Belgium.
Construction of the tower began in 1313 after a design by master mason Jan
van Haelst. After continuing intermittently through wars, plagues and
political turmoil, the work reached completion in 1380. Through the
centuries, the belfry served not only as a bell tower to announce the time
and various warnings, but also as a fortified watchtower and the place where
the documents evidencing the municipal privileges were kept.
- Saint Bavo's Cathedral (Sint-Baafskathedraal)
The building is built
on the site of the former Chapel of St. John the Baptist, a primarily wooden
construction that was consecrated in 942, and was expanded in
the Romanesque style in 1038. In the subsequent period from the 14th
through 16th centuries, the church was more or less being permanently
expanded and rebuilt in the grander Gothic style. In 1539, as a result
of the rebellion against Charles V, the old Abbey of St. Bavo was dissolved.
Its abbot and monks went on to become canons in a Chapter that was attached
to what then became the Church of Saint Bavo. When the Diocese of Ghent was
founded in 1559, the church became its cathedral.
SHS had choir and
string orchestra concerts in the cathedral. The sound of the choir
echoed in the cathedral was like the voice from the heaven lingering around
- Ghent River & City
The sky has cleared up after the concert.
Our hotel was right on the bank of the Leie River overlooking the
Graslei. There was a
week-long music festival going on right
on the river bank. It was a convenient location with easy access and good
views, however, the music did not stop until 2AM (so the hotel had earplugs
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