Exploring Places XXXV: Ghent, Belgium

The origin of the 16th postcard received is GHENT.

View of Ghent from the Cathedral with Belfry of Ghent and Saint Nicholas church visible by Edelseider. Wikipedia

Ghent is a city and a municipality located in the Flemish Region of Belgium. It is the capital and largest city of the East Flanders province.

Location of Belgium. Wikipedia

Location of Ghent in Belgium

The city started as a settlement at the confluence of the Rivers Scheldt and Leie and in the late Middle Ages became one of the largest and richest cities of northern Europe with some 50,000 people in 1300.


...being the birthplace of Emperor Charles V

Portrait of Charles V Seated. Wikimedia Commons

Birthplace of Charles V. Photo courtesy of Patricia Losada

Birthplace of Charles V. Photo courtesy of Patricia Losada

... the Treaty of Ghent, which put an end to the War of 1812 between the United States and the United Kingdom.

Cover of the Treaty of Ghent. Open Library

St. Michael’s Bridge
One of the best views of Ghent's Medieval buildings can be enjoyed from St. Michael's Bridge.  The bridge is located just two or three blocks down the road from the churches and cathedrals.

Saint Michael's Bridge. Photo courtesy of Patricia Losada
The Belfry is the proudest symbol of the city’s independence.

Gent Belfort. Wikimedia commons
The Cloth Hall was built onto the side of the Belfry. In a euphoric Brabant Gothic style, this monument glorifies the industry to which the city owes so much. At the corner of the Cloth Hall is an old jailer’s lodge.

The façade is adorned with the ‘Mammelokker’ which depicts the legend of Cimon who was condemned to starve to death. He was saved by his daughter who fed him daily from her breast (‘mamme’: breast - ‘lokken’: suck). The Belfry is the middle of the famous three-tower row, together with the Saint Bavo’s Cathedral and the Saint Nicholas’ Church.

Aerial view of Ghent's towers. Photo courtesy of Patricia Losada
The Patershol quarter is the medieval heart of the city. The Friary of the Calced Carmelites, dating back to 1329, was fully restored at the end of the last century and reopened as an exhibion space. Thirty years ago, you could buy a little house here for next to nothing. Today, the Patershol is one of the city’s most desirable neighbourhoods. For good dining, you can choose from one of the many restaurants which have sprung up in the medieval alleys.

Patersol. Visit Ghent.com

Graslei and Korenlei
This medieval port with its unique row of historical buildings, which are reflected in the long river, is the meeting place par excellence. Young and old, inhabitant and visitor, everyone meets on one of the many café patios or simply by the water. This is the thriving heart of the inner city. The house of the Grain Weighers, the Guildhall of the Free Boatmen, the Spijker… every house on the Graslei has its own history. Together they form the story of the incredible blossoming of Ghent’s economy during the Middle Ages. On the other side of the water is the Korenlei. All that remains of some of the original buildings is the outer walls!

Graslei. Photo courtesy of Patricia Losada
Castle of the Counts
‘I’ll show them who’s boss’: that’s what Philip of Alsace had in mind. So he had the imposing castle rebuilt (1180). Overlooking the city from its battlements high up on the keep, one can sense the feeling of wealth and power that the lord of the castle must have had.

Ghent Castle. Photo Courtesy of Patricia Losada
St Bavo's Cathedral
When Charles V was baptised there in 1500, the metamorphosis from a closed Romanesque church to a spacious Gothic one was fully underway. However, despite substantial financial support from the emperor, the cathedral still remained unfinished 58 years later. As a result, the funeral service for the deceased sovereign could not take place there.
Saint Bravo's Cathedral. Photo courtesy of Patricia Losada
All that remains of the original Romanesque church is the crypt. St. Bavo’s Cathedral houses an impressive number of art treasures: the baroque high altar in white, black and red flamed marble, the rococo pulpit in oak, gilded wood and marble, a major work by Rubens, the ‘Calvary Triptych’, attributed to Joos van Wassenhove, alias Justus van Gent, tombs of the Ghent bishops, and much more. However, one work stands out head and shoulders above the rest: the world-famous Adoration of the Mystic Lamb painted by Hubert and Jan van Eyck around 1432.

The Adoration of the Mystic Lamb
The Van Eyck brothers painted this unique altarpiece in 1432. It is the highlight of the Flemish Primitives and a milestone in art history. The Polyptych survived the Protestant Iconoclasm, fell into French hands under Napoleon and was requisitioned by Nazi Germany during the Second World War. But it has now been hanging peacefully for more than 50 years in the place where it belongs: St. Bavo’s Cathedral.

Retable de L'Agneau Mystique. Wikimedia Commons
Ghent is a historic city, yet at the same time a contemporary one. The modern daily life of the city’s active inhabitants plays itself out against a gorgeous historical backdrop. In Ghent, they live, work and enjoy life over and over again each day.
You can enjoy the peace of an authentic beguinage. Parents and children can stroll through the traffic-free streets of the city centre while Dozens of pavement cafes invite you to discover Ghent’s specialities.

Visit Ghent

We would like to express our special thanks to Patricia Losada for having shared with us her beautiful pictures of Ghent.
Patricia Losada in Ghent

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