Ghent is noted for its many beautiful medieval and Renaissance structures, among which are the ruins of the Abbey of St. Bavo (founded 631) and of the imposing castle (begun 867) of the counts of Flanders, the Cathedral of St. Bavon (10th-16th cent.), the cloth weavers' hall (16th cent.), an unfinished 14th-century belfry (c.300 ft/91 m high) with a celebrated carillon, and the churches of St. Nicholas (13th cent.) and St. James (13th-16th cent.). Flemish painting flourished in Ghent under the Burgundian dynasty (15th cent.); Hugo van der Goes worked there most of his life, and the world-famous masterpiece of the Van Eyck brothers, The Adoration of the Lamb, is the altarpiece of the Cathedral of St. Bavo. The cathedral also contains a noted Rubens painting. The poet and dramatist Maurice Maeterlinck was born in the city.
One of Belgium's oldest cities (first mentioned in the 7th cent.) and the historic capital of Flanders, Ghent developed around a fortress built (early 10th cent.) by the first count of Flanders on a small island. The town soon spread to nearby islets, still connected by numerous bridges. By the 13th cent. the city had become a major wool-producing center, rivaled only by Bruges and Ypres. Medieval Ghent was an industrial city in the modern sense. Its four chief guilds—weavers, fullers, shearers, and dyers—comprised the majority of the working population. Social conflict emerged between the workers and the rich bourgeoisie; strikes and insurrections were frequent.
After the Battle of the Spurs (1302), at Kortrijk, the guilds' role in communal government increased rapidly, although not without opposition. A turbulent period of oligarchic rule followed, but the guilds regained power at the beginning (1337) of the Hundred Years War under Jacob van Artevelde and, later, Philip van Artevelde. The guilds continued to rule even after the French defeated and killed (1382) Philip van Artevelde at the battle of Roosebeke, and in 1385 the weavers made a favorable peace with Philip the Bold of Burgundy, who had inherited Flanders the previous year. Ghent retained its liberties and privileges until 1453, when, as a result of an unsuccessful rebellion, they were drastically curtailed by Philip the Good of Burgundy.
Rights were restored by the Great Privilege, promulgated (1477) by Mary of Burgundy. Mary's marriage (1477) to Archduke Maximilian (later Emperor Maximilian I) was at Ghent; their children were kept virtual prisoners by the burghers after Mary's death (1482). It was only in 1485 that Maximilian was able to overcome the rebellious city and obtain the release of his son Philip (later Philip I of Castile). Philip's son, later Emperor Charles V, was born (1500) and raised in Ghent. In 1539 the city rose against Charles, who hastened to Flanders, suppressed (1540) the rebellion, abrogated Ghent's liberties, and established a garrison to prevent further outbreaks.
Ghent later joined (1576) William the Silent in the revolt of the Netherlands and Flanders against Spain. The Pacification of Ghent, signed in November of the same year, was an alliance of the provinces of the Netherlands for the purpose of driving the Spanish from the country. For a time Ghent was a city-republic under Calvinist domination, but its capture (1584) by the Spanish under Alessandro Farnese restored it to Hapsburg rule, under which it remained until the French Revolution. The modern industrialization of the city began in the early 19th cent. with the development of its port and the establishment of textile factories. The city was occupied by the Germans in World Wars I and II.
See F. L. Engelman, The Peace of Christmas Eve (1962).
City (pop., 2000 est.: 224,180), capital of East Flanders province, northwestern Belgium. One of the chief towns of the medieval county of Flanders, Ghent was one of the largest towns in northern Europe by the 13th century. Its prosperity was based on its manufacture of luxury cloths, which were famous throughout Europe. It began to decline in the late 16th century, when its cloth was unable to compete with England's. Its economy revived with the introduction of cotton-spinning machinery (in particular, a power loom smuggled out of England), and it subsequently became the centre of the Belgian textile industry. Ghent has many fine museums, notably the Museum of Fine Arts, which contains a treasury of paintings by Flemish masters who lived and worked in Ghent during the 16th and 17th centuries. Belgium's second largest port, it is also a horticultural centre.
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Ghent (Gent ʝɛnt in Dutch, Gand [ɡɑ̃] in French, and formerly Gaunt in English) is a city and a municipality located in the Flemish region, Belgium. It is the capital and biggest city of the East Flanders province. The city started as a settlement at the confluence of the Rivers Scheldt and Lys and became in the Middle Ages one of the largest and richest cities of northern Europe. Today it is a busy city with a port and a university.
The municipality comprises the city of Ghent proper and the towns of Afsnee, Desteldonk, Drongen, Gentbrugge, Ledeberg, Mariakerke, Mendonk, Oostakker, Sint-Amandsberg, Sint-Denijs-Westrem, Sint-Kruis-Winkel, Wondelgem and Zwijnaarde. With 233,120 inhabitants in 2006, Ghent is Belgium's third largest city by number of inhabitants. The current mayor of Ghent, Daniël Termont, leads a coalition of the SP.a/VlaamsProgressieven and VLD.
Every year a ten day long street festival is held called the "Ghent Fests" (Gentse Feesten in Dutch). About 2 million visitors attend the festival every year.
Archeologic evidence shows human presence in the region of the confluence of Scheldt and Lys going back as far as the Stone Age and the Iron Age. Most historians believe that the older name for Ghent, 'Ganda' is derived from the Celtic word 'ganda' which means confluence. There are no written records of the Roman period but archeological research confirms that the region of Ghent was further inhabited.
Around 650 Saint Amand founded two abbeys in Ghent: the Saint Peter Abbey and the St. Bavo's Abbey . The city grew from several nuclei, the abbeys and a commercial centre. Around 800 Louis the Pious, son of Charlemagne, appointed Einhard, the biographer of Charlemagne, as abbot of both abbeys. In 851 and 879 the city was however attacked and plundered twice by the Vikings.
The city recovered and flourished from the 11th century on. Until the 13th century Ghent was the biggest city in Europe after Paris; it was bigger than London, Cologne or Moscow. Within the city walls lived up to 65,000 people. Today, 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 a lot of land was periodically inundated. These richly grassed 'meersen' ("water-meadows": a word related to the English 'marsh', but not meaning exactly the same, a 'meers' is not permanently under water) were ideally suited for herding sheep, the wool of which was used for making cloth. In fact, Ghent was during the Middle Ages the most important 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 England. This was one of the reasons for Flanders' good relationship with England. Ghent was the birthplace of John of Gaunt, Duke of Lancaster. The trade with England suffered significantly during the Hundred Years' War.
The city recovered in the 14th century, while Flanders was united with neighbouring provinces under the Dukes of Burgundy. High taxes led to a rebellion and eventually the Battle of Gavere, in which Ghent suffered a terrible defeat at the hands of Philip the Good. Around this time the center of gravity in the Low Countries started to shift from Flanders (Bruges–Ghent) to Brabant (Antwerp–Brussels), although Ghent would continue to play an important role.
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). The Saint Bavo Abbey was abolished, torn down, and replaced with a fortress for Spanish troops. Only a small portion of the abbey was spared demolition.
The late 16th and the 17th century brought devastation because of the Religious wars. At one time Ghent was a Calvinistic republic, but eventually the Spanish army reinstated Catholicism. The wars ended the role of Ghent as a center of international importance.
In the 18th and 19th century Ghent the textile industry flourished again in Ghent. Lieven Bauwens introduced the first mechanical weaving machine on the European continent, of which he smuggled the plans out of England, in 1800.
Ghent was also the site of the signing of the Treaty of Ghent which formally ended the War of 1812 between Britain and the United States of America. After the battle of Waterloo Ghent became a part of the United Kingdom of the Netherlands for 15 years. In this period Ghent got its own university (1817) and a new connection to the sea (1824–27).
After the Belgian Revolution, with the loss of port access to the sea for more than a decade, the local economy collapsed and the first Belgian trade-union originated in Ghent. In 1913 there was a World exhibition in Ghent. As a preparation for these festivities the Sint-Pieters railway station, was completed in 1912.
In the nineteenth century Genth's most famous architect, Louis Roelandt, built the university hall Aula, the opera and the main courthouse. Highlights of modern architecture are the university buildings (the Boekentoren or Book Tower) by Henry Van de Velde. There are also few theatres from diverse periods.
In Ghent and other regions of East-Flanders, bakeries sell a donut-shaped bun called a "mastel". "Mastellen" are also called "Saint Hubert bread", because on the Saint's feast day, which is 3 November, the bakers bring their batches to the early Mass to be blessed. Traditionally, it is thought that blessed mastellen immunize against rabies.
The Ghent University and a number of research oriented companies are situated in the central and southern part of the city.
As the biggest city of East-Flanders, Ghent has many hospitals, schools and shopping streets.
Tourism is increasingly becoming a major employer in the local area.
When arriving in Ghent, it is best to leave cars in Park & Ride zones next to the road. The actual city centre is a car free area, and parking is difficult and expensive in the city. On weekends, free night buses provide transportation through the night.
See also: Notable people from Ghent
GHENT IS HOME TO REGION'S OLDEST HOUSES, CENSUS FINDS HOME RESTORATIONS BECOMING MORE COMMON IN 110-YEAR-OLD NORFOLK SUBURB.(LOCAL)
Nov 06, 2002; Byline: MARC DAVIS THE VIRGINIAN-PILOT CORRECTION: The Ghent section of Norfolk is home to more of the region's oldest...