Practical power in the city rested in the hands of about 40 of the wealthiest families, whose members sat on the city council.

An excerpt from the article 44 facts about Ghent

These wealthy families built public places like hospitals and charitable institutions. New monasteries were also established in the city: the Augustinians, Carmelites, Dominicans, and Friars Minor. For unmarried women and widows, two large beginages (a complex of houses with a small church or chapel and a hospital, an isolation room for the infectiously ill, stables, a chicken coop, a brewery, gardens, and meadows) were built thanks to Countess Joanna van Constantinopel - Sint-Elisabeth and Onze-Lieve-Vrouw ter Hoye.