City Exploring Ghent

5:36:00 PM Unknown 1 Comments

There is one compelling reason to visit Ghent--it is Hubert and Jan Van Eyke's alter piece known as The Adoration of the Mystic Lamb, found in St. Bavo's Cathedral. Painted by the brothers in 1432, it has been stolen 7 times, most recently by the Germans during World War 2. Kept in Neuschwanstein Castle in Bavaria it was then moved to a salt mine when air raids threatened the castle.  It was later found by a group of Allied Art Historians tasked with locating the thousands of precious works of art taken by the Nazis.  Today it is kept in a low light room where for a fee you can sit and listen to a recorded lecture on each of the panels, but no photos allowed. 
Ghent is another of these fantastic cities that just deserve to be explored. So much of its medieval past has been preserved in the architecture, it is hard not to be impressed.

"The history of Ghent begins in the year 630 when St Amandus chose the site of the confluence of the two rivers, the Lys and the Scheldt to construct an abbey. Nearly 1400 years of history are still palpable in the city today: a medieval castle surrounded by a moat, an imposing cathedral, a belfry. Nowhere else does one find so much history per square metre than in the historical heart of Ghent! From the year 1000 to around 1550, Ghent was one of the most important cities in Europe. It was bigger than London and second only to Paris in size.

Gravensteen, or Castle of the Counts, has an interesting history. The earliest structure on this site was a wooden fortress built in 11th Century. Gradually, wood was replaced with stone as the castle was expanded. Civic buildings such as court rooms,  and dungeons were added. Cruel torturous acts were preformed here to exact confessions from prisoners--one room houses the interesting implements of torture used and all I can say is, I am glad I didn't live in the middle ages. 

By the 18th century the castle had lost its usefulness and was slated for demolition. Viewed by the city inhabitants as a symbol of abuse and power plans were to level the castle, fill in the moat and build a road over the top. Lack of interest in the property delayed demolition. In 1865 the city turned its eye towards historic preservation and the castle, once slated for demolition, was eventually renovated and opened to the public.
National Geographic calls Ghent one of the most authentic Medieval cities in Europe.

1 comment:

  1. What a lovely city! Went through there 25 years ago, but I barely remember it as I was just 17 and I don't think I appreciated my mother's and I trip through Europe as much as I should have.