Day By Day

Thursday, October 04, 2012

Through the Heart of Europe -- Part 15, Ghent

Leaving the boat we boarded a bus at Terneuzen that after a short journey deposited us near the center of Ghent, one of the oldest settlements in Western Europe. It has been inhabited since the Neolithic period and has at various times been dominated by Celts, Romans, Franks, Vikings, and the Dutch. It has also been an important industrial center since the High Middle Ages.

A small shrine at the point where we started our tour of the city.

The "Friday Market", one of the city's most important commercial centers. The statue is of Jacob van Artevelde, a prominent weaver who ruled the city through the early stages of the Hundred Years War between France and England. His policy was to preserve the neutrality and trading rights of the city, but ultimately this failed and he was forced to side with England. This led to him being excommunicated by the Pope after which he was killed by an angry pro-French mob.

Medieval guild houses off Friday Square.

Ghent was long dominated by artisan guilds and this tradition of labor politics has continued throughout its history. These buildings, which have long dominated the area around the square were the headquarters of the labor party and of the socialists. They prominently display Marxist slogans.

Buildings on the Graslei, a street running along  one of the city's canals.

An early-modern building that, from the decorations on its walls, was apparently a brothel.

The medieval castle, the Gravensteen, where the Counts of Flanders held court.

Mmmmm, beer. Lots of beer.


The medieval meat market, headquarters of the butchers guild.

The canal runs past St. Bavo Cathedral. The large object lying in the middle of the canal near the bridge is a broken statue of Neptune, originally located at the nearby fish market. How it got into the canal I don't know.

An elderly man, condemned to be starved to death for heresy, was granted one last wish -- that his daughter, who had recently given birth to his grandson, be allowed to see the child every day until he died. Every day the dutiful daughter brought the child to the man's cell. Months passed and he continued to live, long past the point when he should have died. Confounded religious authorities decided that it was a sign from God that he should be allowed to live, so he was released. The statue shows what really happened.

The city hall.

St. Nicholas Church in the city center.

After several hours strolling through Ghent and admiring its wonders we again embarked on our bus, returned to the boat, and set course for the Netherlands.

No comments: