Saturday, October 30, 2010

Ghent, Belgium

Ghent is the capital of the East Flanders province and the 4th largest city in Belgium with around 250,000 inhabitants. During the Middle Ages it was one of the largest and richest cities in northern Europe. This is where the Treaty of Ghent was signed which formally ended the War of 1812 between the USA and Britain. Ghent suffered little bomb damage during WWI and WWII so the town's medieval architecture is very well preserved. You can view the 1,400 years of history int he town's medieval towers that overlook the old city center Saint Nicholas' Church, the belfry and Saint Bavo Cathedral.
Sint Niklaaskerk (Saint Nicholas’ Church is one of the oldest and most prominent of the town’s landmarks. The Gothic church began in the 13th century as a replacement for an earlier Romanesque church. It was completed between 1220 – 1250. During the French Revolution, when the country was attacked, the church was used a horse stable.
The town belfry was completed in 1380. It is 91 meters (~299 feet) and served as a bell tower, a fortified watchtower and the town treasury. The belfry is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage site.
Sint Baafskathedraal (Saint Bavo Catherdral) is the the seat of the Ghent diocese. It is based upon the Chapel of St. John the Baptist and it was consecrated in 942. The cathedral was expanded in the Romanesque style in 1038 and again in the Gothic style in 1569. This is where Charles V was baptized in 1500. However, in 1539 there was a rebellion against Charles V and the old Abbey of St. Bavo was dissolved. The church became a cathedral in 1559.
Het Gravensteen (the Castle of the Counts) is a 12th century castle that was partially restored and converted to a museum. The original castle was built around 868 by Count Baldwin I and later rebuilt by the Count of Flanders around 1180. A medieval castle in the middle of a city is pretty cool.
In the center of town is Sint Michielsbug (St. Michael's Bridge), near St. Michael's Church. From here is a great view of the town's row of historical buildings along the river.

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