Ghent

Ghent is the city of students, scholars and history. Medieval architecture, modern arts, live jazz concerts and traditional festival held in the Belgian city of Ghent create a unique atmosphere.

The history of Ghent. Around the year 867, Baldwin Iron Arm, the first Count of Flanders, decided to build a castle at the meeting of the Lieve and Leie rivers in order to thwart the raiding Norsemen. A town soon grew up around the castle, and Baldwin adopted it as the seat of his domain. By the 12th century, the castle had been enlarged and strengthened and the town of Ghent was rapidly growing into a prosperous city. The cloth trade flourished here like nowhere else and within a century Ghent had become an industrial city with a population greater than that of any city in Europe. Such prosperity brought the workers and citizens into conflict with the ruling nobility; and the city experienced frequent clashes between the two for the next several centuries.

By the late 15th century, the cloth trade had begun to wane, though Ghent remained prosperous by shifting its economy to the shipping trade along the Leie and Scheldt rivers. In the latter part of the century, however, the closing of the Scheldt brought commercial decline, not to be reversed until the revival of cloth working during the industrial boom of the 19th century.

Today Ghent is a leading industrial center and a major inland port. However, its historic center, including the medieval districts, many fine churches, and the imposing castle of the Counts of Flanders, remain intact. Its Belfry (or Belfort) and Cloth Hall are among the finest monuments of the great era of Flemish cloth working, and within the magnificent Cathedral of Saint Bavo resides one of the greatest works of art ever created “The Adoration of the Mystic Lamb” also known simply as the Ghent Altarpiece, by the brothers Van Eyck.

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