Facts about Ghent

We found 44 facts about Ghent

City of three towers

Ghent is one of Belgium's most visited cities by tourists. This beautiful old Flanders city combines dignity, beauty, culture, and creativity. It is among the oldest cities in Europe, where you can feel the atmosphere of Paris, Venice, Amsterdam, and Bologna.

Ghent is located in the northwestern part of Belgium, in Flanders - a former part of the Netherlands.

It is the capital of East Flanders, a province in the Flemish region (one of Belgium's three federal regions).

The city lies at the mouth of the Leie River (also called Lys River) into the Scheldt (a river flowing through France, Belgium and the Netherlands).

The Leie has its origin in Lisbourg, France. In Ghent, Belgium, it flows into the Scheldt and has access to the North Sea via the Ghent-Terneuzen Canal.

Ghent, along with six other cities, forms an agglomeration.

Among them, the largest are Sint-Amandsberg and Gentbrugge.

Ghent's area is 156.2 square kilometers.

As of 2014, it had a population of more than 251.000 or 1607 people/km2.

Along with French, the official language of the Flemish Region is the Belgian variety of standardized Dutch.

The people of Ghent speak the Ghent dialect, which has been heavily influenced by French (at the end of the 19th century, French was spoken in Ghent by 20% of the population). To date, the Ghentian language contains a great many French words, and they also pronounce the "r" voice peculiarly.

The name of the city of Ghent (Gent in Flemish) comes from the Celtic word "ganda," meaning the place where two rivers meet.

In ancient times, the area of present-day Belgium was inhabited by Celts under the rule of the Romans. They also settled the region of present-day Ghent.

In the 7th century, the French monk Amand (Catholic saint, apostle of Flanders) came to Flanders to preach the gospel.

He began his evangelization from Ghent, where he was not well received at first, but eventually, his work bore fruit. Amand established many monasteries in the Flanders area.

Legends are associated with the figure of Amand, telling of his efforts to convert the people of Ghent and the surrounding area to Christianity.

Amand arrived in Ghent by boat, but when he wanted to go ashore from it, the residents threw him into the water. The monk was not discouraged, he sailed on and stopped at the place where the Sint-Pieters monastery was later built. There, he settled and prayed assiduously for the conversion of the pagans. When a condemned man was hanged in Ghent one day, Amand took his body off the gallows and restored him to life in his monastery. According to other sources, he brought back to life a woman who had hung herself from her veil. When the townspeople saw this miracle, they began to be baptized en masse.

Amand, together with his friend Bavon (a Belgian saint of the Catholic and Orthodox Church), founded two monasteries - Sint-Baafs (St. Bavon) and Sint-Pieters.

These monasteries became the most important in Flanders. The city grew around them.

Saint Bavon (Bavo) was born in Allowin near Liege, to the Haspengouw family - legend calls him the son of Pepin of Landen.

In his youth, he was known for his carefree, boisterous, and selfish life. He married and had a daughter, Agletrudis. His wife's untimely death, his daughter's extraordinary piety, and a sermon preached by the monk Amanda caused him to convert. He sold all his possessions and used the money for the monastery in Ghent that Amanda was building and moved there. He became a Benedictine monk and, after some time, a hermit. At first, he lived in a hollowed-out tree trunk, and later in a cottage built in the forest. He died a natural death and was buried in Ghent, in the monastery that today bears his name.

St. Bavon's Cathedral is known for its Ghent Altarpiece, known as the "Adoration of the Mystical Lamb" by the brothers Hubert and Jan van Eyck.

This painting is considered the opus magnum (the most outstanding work in the artist's oeuvre) of medieval painting.

Another well-known work in St. Bavo Cathedral is Rubens' painting - "St. Bavo arrives at the monastery in Ghent."

There is also a Rococo pulpit by Laurent Delvaux from 1745.

The two-time Viking invasion of Ghent contributed to the gradual decline of the city.

Between 879 and 883, the Vikings ransacked both monasteries, and the city ceased to exist.

Thanks to the counts of Flanders, Baldwin Iron Arm and his son, Baldwin II “the Bald,” Ghent began to regain its status.

Baldwin II “the Bald” built fortifications in Ghent on the left bank of the Leie. Residents gathered there and the first market - today's Groentenmarkt - was established. The town around the market developed rapidly, and both monasteries resumed their activities before the year 1000. St. Dunstan, the abbot of Glastonbury Monastery, found refuge in Sint-Pieters Monastery. A fortress was also built, which in time developed into Gravensteen Castle - the seat of the Counts of Flanders.

Between the 12th and 15th centuries, Ghent was one of the largest cities outside of Italy, second only to Paris.

It is estimated that between 60.000 and 65.000 people lived within the city walls.

Ghent received the rights to its own city council around 1100 from the Count of Flanders.

This meant independence and privileges for the city, the preservation of which the residents had to fight quite often over the centuries (the first uprising broke out in 1379).

The city was surrounded by walls with four gates.

The city was granted the privilege of a storehouse, which ordered any merchant passing through Ghent with grain to set aside 1/4 of his cargo for sale at the nearby grain market (Korenmarkt). The city grew rapidly richer, and its political importance increased. The Gravensteen fortress was then built (1180), not to defend the city, but to protect the count from rebellious craftsmen.

Ghent's greatest profits in the period from the 12th to the 15th century came from the production of and trade in cloth.

More than 60% of Ghent's families profited from it.

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

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.

In the 13th century, the Lieve canal, 45 km long, was built in Ghent, and later, facing Antwerp, the Sasse Vaart canal.
Ghent in the 15th century was a city of culture and an important scientific center.

It was there that the van Eyck brothers created the Altarpiece of the Mystic Lamb in 1432, and it was there that Hugo van der Goes (master of Dutch Renaissance painting, the most prominent artist of the generation of so-called Dutch primitivists) worked. The city had many scholars (Erasmus of Rotterdam), but also many centers where one could receive education (about 300 students attended the gymnasium), and private lessons were common.

Ghent had five or six apothecaries who held university degrees or certificates of having passed examinations in their field.

The city had theater societies and clubs for the townspeople. Printing was also developing significantly there.

When the cloth trade ceased to be profitable, the city began to decline and residents revolted.

Disgruntled officials and workers organized strikes, as a result of which Charles V Habsburg stripped the city of its privileges and the right to exercise authority over areas outside the city walls. He confiscated all city property, and the symbol of the city's independence, the Roeland bell, was taken down from the bell tower. The city had to pay a huge fine.

To further humiliate the citizens, on May 3, 1540, by order of the ruler, 30 of the most prominent citizens, 318 members of the smaller guilds, and 50 members of the weavers' guild had to march through the city barefoot, clad only in shirts.

They were followed by 50 of the biggest rebels, also barefoot, wearing white shirts and with nooses around their necks - as a sign that they deserved the gallows for their rebellion against the emperor. They had to kneel before the emperor and beg for forgiveness. To this day, the residents of Ghent are called stroppendragers - those who wear the noose.

The event grew to become a symbol of Ghent's steadfastness.

To this day, a parade of stroppendragers takes place every year in the city center during Gentse Feesten. Now, passing with a noose around one's neck is an honor available only to members of the Stroppendragers guild.

Ghent was also the site of the Inquisition.

Beginning in 1559, heretics were burned at the stake almost every month. The reaction to these atrocities in the Netherlands was the so-called Iconoclast Revolt (an uprising in which Reformation supporters destroyed altars, paintings, liturgical vessels, etc., in Catholic churches), during which Ghent was particularly affected. Threatened was the Ghent Alterpiece: Adoration of the Mystic Lamb, which miraculously managed to be saved. The conclusion of the so-called Ghent Pacification brought religious peace between Protestants and Catholics.

Between 1577 and 1584, Ghent became a Calvinist republic.

During this time, the first theological university was established in the city, which today is part of Ghent University.

When the Duke of Parma took over the city, persecution of Calvinists began in 1584.

About 15.000 residents left the city at that time.

One of the city's most distinguished figures was Antoon Triest, a bishop and great lover and patron of the arts.

It was he who commissioned works for the city from Rubens, Van Dyck, and the sculptor Jeroom Duqquesnoy.

A new Ghent-Bruges waterway was built, which was later extended to the ports of Ostend and Dunkirk.

It was used by some 50.000 people a year, and one of the most prominent passengers was Czar Peter the Great of Russia.

In the mid-18th century, under Empress Maria Theresa, Ghent achieved the status of Belgium's largest city.

Sugar mills and the first real factories not related to the cloth industry appeared in the city. A new opera house in Kouter Square, founded by industrialists, opened in 1737.

Houses built in the 18th century in Ghent hosted notable figures: King Louis XVIII of France, Tsar Alexander, King William I of the Netherlands, Wellington before he went to Waterloo, and an American delegation with future President John Quincy Adams.

The signing of the so-called Treaty of Ghent, ending the Second British-American War, also took place there.

Ghent was the first city in Europe where the Industrial Revolution arrived.

The textile industry was mechanized, thanks to a spinning machine design smuggled from England - the Spinning Jenny.

The first steam train arrived in Ghent on September 28, 1837.

In 1874, streetcars appeared on the streets - horse-drawn at first, and electric since 1905.

The first modern trade unions in Belgium were established in Ghent.
In 1873, the founding meeting of the Institute of International Law took place in Ghent.
In 1913, Ghent hosted the EXPO World Exhibition.

The exhibition was held in a specially built complex. At that time, the Sint-Pieters railway station, the Flanders Palace Hotel and many of the city's monuments were also built.

From the beginning of the 20th century, Ghent had about 15 large hotels, the Valentino cinema hall, where films were screened as early as 1901.

After World War I, Ghent became a city of culture and entertainment. It began organizing, among other things, the Gentse Feesten and the Midday Fair, which are held annually to the present day.

In 1932, the largest cinema in Belgium began operating in Ghent, screening sound films - the Capitole.

Ghent had its radio station in the 1930s, and Ghent University became the first university in the country to teach in Dutch. In 1938, one of the professors at this university - Corneille Heymans - was awarded the Nobel Prize.

During World War II, General Stanislaw Maczek's of the Polish First Armored Division took part in the fighting to liberate the city.

On January 1, 1945, one of the largest air battles of the end of World War II, known as the Battle of Ghent, took place over the Sint-Denijs-Westrem airfield near Ghent. Polish air squadrons 302, 308 and 317 took part in the battle.

Ghent is Belgium's most important university city in terms of student numbers.

About 28.000 people study at the university alone. Many foreign students study in the city.

Ghent is an important seaport.

The mainstay of the economy is the textile, electrical machinery, chemical, leather, and food processing industries. It is a major flower breeding center.

Ghent is "a city of three towers."

They are very characteristic of the skyline of this city: the tall bell tower called the "dragon tower"–The Belfry of Ghent from the 14th century, a UNESCO monument, St. Nicholas Bell Tower (one of the oldest and most famous landmarks in Ghent), and Saint Bavo’s Cathedral (the cathedral was the site of the baptism of Charles V - Emperor of the Holy Roman Empire of the German Nation from 1519 to 1556 - in1500).

Every year Ghent hosts one of the largest film festivals in Europe - Film Festival Gent.
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