Ghent Belgium Travel
Ghent Belgium: Despite being one of Belgium’s oldest cities, Ghent remains small enough to feel cosy but big enough to be a vibrant, relevant centre for trade and culture. There’s a wealth of medieval and classical architecture here, contrasted by large post-industrial areas undergoing urban renewal that give Ghent a gritty-but-good industrial feel.
Ghent, Flemish Gent, French Gand, city, Flanders Region, northwestern Belgium. Ghent lies at the junction of the canalized Lys (Leie) and Scheldt (Schelde) rivers and is the centre of an urban complex that includes Ledeberg, Gentbrugge, and Sint-Amandsberg.
One of Belgium’s oldest cities and the historic capital of Flanders, Ghent was powerful, well-organized in its wealthy trade guilds, and virtually independent until 1584. Within its walls was signed the Pacification of Ghent (1576), an attempt to unite the Lowlands provinces against Spain. The Treaty of Ghent (December 24, 1814) marked the end of the War of 1812 between the United States and Britain.
Along with Brugge (Bruges) and Ypres, Ghent was one of the chief towns of the medieval county of Flanders. It owes its origin to the economic developments that occurred in Flanders in the 10th century, and the town sprang up on the banks of the Lys River at a spot under the protection of a nearby castle built by the counts of Flanders. Ghent grew rapidly in the 12th century, and by the 13th century it was one of the largest towns in northern Europe. Its astonishing prosperity was based on the manufacture of cloth; Ghent’s luxury cloths made from English wool were famous throughout Europe until the 15th century. The city’s wealth gave it great political power and virtual autonomy from its nominal rulers, the counts of Flanders and (from 1384) the dukes of Burgundy. This situation often led to open conflict. At the start of the Hundred Years’ War in the early 14th century, Ghent sided with Edward III of England against the count of Flanders and the king of France.
Edward’s fourth son, John of Gaunt (i.e., of Ghent), was born in Ghent in 1340. The heavy taxes later imposed by the dukes of Burgundy prompted several uprisings by the town’s citizens in the 15th century, and the army of Ghent was massacred by the forces of Philip the Good at the Battle of Gavre in 1453. With the marriage of Mary of Burgundy to the future Holy Roman emperor Maximilian I in 1477, Ghent passed to the rule of the Habsburgs. The future Holy Roman emperor Charles V was born in Ghent in 1500.
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Ghent Belgium Points Of Interest
The city began to decline economically in the late 16th century, after the outbreak of the rebellion against Spanish Habsburg rule in the Netherlands. Ghent was a prominent leader in this struggle during the 1570s and ’80s, and the Pacification of Ghent, which united the northern and southern provinces of the Netherlands in the resistance against Spain, was signed in the city in 1576. Ghent’s cloth industry disappeared in the ensuing decades, however, since it was unable to compete with English cloth manufacturers. Ghent’s decline was accelerated in 1648 by its loss of access to the sea via the estuary of the Scheldt River, which was in Dutch hands.
Ghent’s commercial and industrial activity began to revive with the introduction of cotton-spinning machinery (in particular, a power loom smuggled out of England) and the construction of a port (1827) and of the Ghent-Terneuzen Canal (1824–27) to the mouth of the Scheldt. Ghent subsequently became the centre of the Belgian textiles industry and an important port as well; its docks became accessible to the largest vessels after extensive improvements were made to the canal and its locks.
Ghent Belgium Train Station
Around 650, Saint Amand founded two abbeys in Ghent: St. Peter’s (Blandinium) and Saint Bavo’s Abbey. Around 800, Louis the Pious, son of Charlemagne, appointed Einhard, the biographer of Charlemagne, as abbot of both abbeys. The city grew from several nuclei, the abbeys and a commercial centre. However, both In 851 and 879, the city was plundered by the Vikings.
Within the protection of the County of Flanders, the city recovered and flourished from the 11th century, growing to become a small city-state. By the 13th century, Ghent was the biggest city in Europe north of the Alps after Paris; it was bigger than Cologne or Moscow. Within the city walls lived up to 65,000 people. The belfry and the towers of the Saint Bavo Cathedral and Saint Nicholas’ Church are just a few examples of the skyline of the period.
The rivers flowed in an area where much land was periodically flooded. These rich grass ‘meersen’ (“water-meadows”: a word related to the English ‘marsh’) were ideally suited for herding sheep, the wool of which was used for making cloth. During the Middle Ages Ghent was the leading city for cloth.
The wool industry, originally established at Bruges, created the first European industrialized zone in Ghent in the High Middle Ages. The mercantile zone was so highly developed that wool had to be imported from Scotland and England. This was one of the reasons for Flanders’ good relationship with Scotland and England. Ghent was the birthplace of John of Gaunt, Duke of Lancaster. Trade with England (but not Scotland) suffered significantly during the Hundred Years’ War.
Ghent University Belgium
In 1500, Juana of Castile gave birth to Charles V, who became Holy Roman Emperor and King of Spain. Although native to Ghent, he punished the city after the 1539 Revolt of Ghent and obliged the city’s nobles to walk in front of the Emperor barefoot with a noose (Dutch: “strop”) around the neck; since this incident, the people of Ghent have been called “Stroppendragers” (noose bearers). Saint Bavo Abbey (not to be confused with the nearby Saint Bavo Cathedral) was abolished, torn down, and replaced with a fortress for Royal Spanish troops. Only a small portion of the abbey was spared demolition.
The late 16th and the 17th centuries brought devastation because of the Eighty Years’ War. The war ended the role of Ghent as a centre of international importance. In 1745, the city was captured by French forces during the War of the Austrian Succession before being returned to the Empire of Austria under the House of Habsburg following the Treaty of Aix-la-Chapelle in 1748, when this part of Flanders became known as the Austrian Netherlands until 1815, the exile of the French Emperor Napoleon I, the end of the French Revolutionary and later Napoleonic Wars and the peace treaties arrived at by the Congress of Vienna.