Ghent

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Ghent
Gent
Municipality of Belgium
Belfry of Ghent. Behind it the Saint Nicholas church is visible.

Flag

Coat of arms
Ghent is located in Belgium
Ghent
Location in Belgium
Coordinates: 51°3′N 3°44′E / 51.050°N 3.733°E / 51.050; 3.733Coordinates: 51°3′N 3°44′E / 51.050°N 3.733°E / 51.050; 3.733
CountryBelgium
CommunityFlemish Community
RegionFlemish Region
ProvinceEast Flanders
ArrondissementGhent
Government
 • Mayor (list)Daniël Termont (sp.a)
 • Governing party/iessp.a, Open VLD, Pro Gent
Area
 • Total156.18 km2 (60.30 sq mi)
Population (1 January 2012)[1]
 • Total248,242
 • Density1,600/km2 (4,100/sq mi)
Postal codes9000–9052
Area codes09
Websitewww.gent.be
 
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Ghent
Gent
Municipality of Belgium
Belfry of Ghent. Behind it the Saint Nicholas church is visible.

Flag

Coat of arms
Ghent is located in Belgium
Ghent
Location in Belgium
Coordinates: 51°3′N 3°44′E / 51.050°N 3.733°E / 51.050; 3.733Coordinates: 51°3′N 3°44′E / 51.050°N 3.733°E / 51.050; 3.733
CountryBelgium
CommunityFlemish Community
RegionFlemish Region
ProvinceEast Flanders
ArrondissementGhent
Government
 • Mayor (list)Daniël Termont (sp.a)
 • Governing party/iessp.a, Open VLD, Pro Gent
Area
 • Total156.18 km2 (60.30 sq mi)
Population (1 January 2012)[1]
 • Total248,242
 • Density1,600/km2 (4,100/sq mi)
Postal codes9000–9052
Area codes09
Websitewww.gent.be

Ghent (/ˈɡɛnt/; Dutch: Gent, pronounced [ʝɛnt]; French: Gand, pronounced: [ɡɑ̃]) is a city and a municipality located in the Flemish region of Belgium. It is the capital and largest city of the East Flanders province. The city started as a settlement at the confluence of the Rivers Scheldt and Lys and in the Middle Ages became 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 surrounding towns of Afsnee, Desteldonk, Drongen, Gentbrugge, Ledeberg, Mariakerke, Mendonk, Oostakker, Sint-Amandsberg, Sint-Denijs-Westrem, Sint-Kruis-Winkel, Wondelgem and Zwijnaarde. With 240,191 inhabitants in the beginning of 2009,[2] Ghent is Belgium's second largest municipality by number of inhabitants. The metropolitan area, including the outer commuter zone, covers an area of 1,205 km2 (465 sq mi) and has a total population of 594,582 as of 1 January 2008, which ranks it as the fourth most populous in Belgium.[3][4] The current mayor of Ghent, Daniël Termont, leads a coalition of the sp.a, Groen and Open VLD.

The ten-day-long "Ghent Festival" (Gentse Feesten in Dutch) is held every year. About two million visitors attend.

History[edit]

Ghent in 1775

Archaeological 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.[5] Most historians believe that the older name for Ghent, 'Ganda', is derived from the Celtic word 'ganda' which means confluence.[5] There are no written records of the Roman period but archaeological research confirms that the region of Ghent was further inhabited.

When the Franks invaded the Roman territories (from the end of the 4th century and well into the 5th century) they brought their language with them and Celtic and Latin were replaced by Old Dutch.

Middle Ages[edit]

Around 650, Saint Amand founded two abbeys in Ghent: the Saint Peter Abbey (nl) (Blandinium) and the Saint Bavo Abbey (nl). 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. By the 13th century, Ghent was the biggest city in Europe after Paris; it was bigger than Cologne, or Moscow.[citation needed] 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 a lot of land was periodically flooded. These richly grassed '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, 1st Duke of Lancaster. Trade with England (but not Scotland) suffered significantly during the Hundred Years' War.

Renaissance[edit]

The city recovered in the 14th century, when Flanders was united with neighbouring provinces under the Dukes of Burgundy. High taxes led to a rebellion and eventually the Battle of Gavere in 1453, in which Ghent suffered a terrible defeat at the hands of Philip the Good. Around this time the centre of political and social importance in the Low Countries started to shift from Flanders (Bruges–Ghent) to Brabant (AntwerpBrussels), although Ghent continued to play an important role.

Buildings along the Leie river in Ghent
Justitiepaleis, Ghent, c. 1895

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 (nl) 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 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 Austria following the Treaty of Aix-la-Chapelle.

Member of the British 7th Armoured Division (Desert Rats), parade in Ghent on 8 September 1944

In the 18th and 19th centuries the textile industry flourished again in Ghent. Lieven Bauwens, having smuggled the plans out of England, introduced the first mechanical weaving machine on the European continent in 1800.

The Treaty of Ghent formally ended the War of 1812 between Britain and the United States. After the Battle of Waterloo, Ghent became a part of the United Kingdom of the Netherlands for 15 years. In this period, Ghent established its own university (1817) and a new connection to the sea (1824–27).

Belgian Revolution[edit]

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.

WWI and WWII[edit]

Ghent was occupied by the Germans in both World Wars but escaped severe destruction and most of the city was liberated by the British 7th Desert Rats Armoured Division on 6 September 1944. However, the northern part of the city was not liberated and suffered from artillery shelling until 19 September. The liberation of the northern part of the city was achieved through close cooperation between the 1st Armoured Division (Poland) and local Belgian fighters. The life of the people and the German invaders, in Ghent during WW1 is described by H.Wandt in "etappenleven te Gent"

Geography[edit]

Municipalities

After the fusions of municipalities in 1965 and 1977, the city is made up of:

Neighbouring municipalities[edit]

Climate[edit]

The climate in this area has mild differences between highs and lows, and there is adequate rainfall year round. According to the Köppen Climate Classification system, Ghent has a marine west coast climate, abbreviated "Cfb" on climate maps.[6]

Climate data for Ghent, Belgium
MonthJanFebMarAprMayJunJulAugSepOctNovDecYear
Average high °C (°F)6
(43)
6
(42)
10
(50)
13
(55)
17
(62)
19
(67)
22
(72)
22
(72)
18
(65)
14
(58)
9
(49)
8
(46)
13.7
(56.8)
Average low °C (°F)2
(36)
1
(34)
4
(40)
6
(43)
10
(50)
13
(55)
15
(59)
14
(58)
12
(54)
9
(48)
6
(42)
4
(39)
8
(46.5)
Avg. precipitation days211520182019161718191919221
Source: Weatherbase [7]

Tourism[edit]

The Graslei is one of the most scenic places in Ghent's old city centre

Architecture[edit]

Historical centre of Ghent – from left to right: Old post office, Saint-Nicholas Church, Belfry, and Saint Bavo Cathedral.
Ghent at Night
Riverside in Ghent
Sunset over the river Leie in Ghent

Much of the city's medieval architecture remains intact and is remarkably well preserved and restored. Its centre is the largest carfree area in Belgium. Interesting highlights are the Saint Bavo Cathedral with the Ghent Altarpiece, the belfry, the Gravensteen castle, and the splendid architecture along the old Graslei harbour. Ghent established a nice blend between comfort of living and history – it is not a city-museum. The city of Ghent also houses three béguinages and numerous churches including the Saint-Jacob's church, the Saint-Nicolas' church and the Saint Michael's church.

In the 19th century Ghent's most famous architect, Louis Roelandt, built the university hall Aula, the opera house 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 a few theatres from diverse periods.

The beguinages, as well as the belfry and adjacent cloth hall, were recognized by UNESCO as World Heritage Sites in 1998 and 1999.

The Zebrastraat, a social experiment in which an entirely renovated site unites living, economy and culture, can also be found in Ghent.

Museums[edit]

Important museums in Ghent are the Museum voor Schone Kunsten (Museum of Fine Arts), with paintings by Hieronymus Bosch, Peter Paul Rubens, and many Flemish masters; the SMAK or Stedelijk Museum voor Actuele Kunst (City Museum for Contemporary Art), with works of the 20th century, including Joseph Beuys and Andy Warhol; and the Design Museum Gent (nl) with masterpieces of Victor Horta and Le Corbusier. The Huis van Alijn (House of the Alijn family) was originally a beguinage and is now a museum for folk art where theatre and puppet shows for children are presented. The Museum voor Industriële Archeologie en Textiel or MIAT displays the industrial strength of Ghent with recreations of workshops and stores from the 1800s and original spinning and weaving machines that remain from the time when the building was a weaving mill. Stadsmuseum Gent (nl), the new Ghent City Museum, is committed to recording and explaining the city's past and its inhabitants, and to preserving the present for future generations.

Restaurants and culinary traditions[edit]

In Ghent and other regions of East-Flanders, bakeries sell a donut-shaped bun called a "mastel" (plural "mastellen"), which is basically a bagel. "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 was thought that blessed mastellen immunized against rabies.

Other local delicacies are the praline chocolates from local producers such as Leonidas, the cuberdons or 'neuzekes' ('noses'), cone-shaped purple jelly-filled candies, 'babeluten' ('babblers'), hard butterscotch-like candy, and of course, on the more fiery side, the famous 'Tierenteyn', a hot but refined mustard that has some affinity to French 'Dijon' mustard.

'Stoverij' is a classic Flemish meat stew, preferably made with a generous addition of brown 'Trappist' (strong abbey beer) and served with French fries. 'Waterzooi' is a local stew originally made from freshwater fish caught in the rivers and creeks of Ghent, but nowadays often made with chicken instead of fish. It is usually served nouvelle-cuisine-style, and will be supplemented by a large pot on the side.

The city promotes a meat-free day on Thursdays called Donderdag Veggiedag[8][9] with vegetarian food being promoted in public canteens for civil servants and elected councillors, in all city funded schools, and promotion of vegetarian eating options in town (through the distribution of "veggie street maps"). This campaign is linked to the recognition of the detrimental environmental effects of meat production, which the United Nations' Food and Agriculture Organization has established to represent nearly one-fifth of global greenhouse gas emissions.

Ghent has the world's largest number of vegetarian restaurants per capita.[10]

Festivities[edit]

The city is host to some big cultural events such as the Gentse Feesten, I Love Techno in Flanders Expo, "10 Days Off" musical festival, the International Film Festival of Ghent (with the World Soundtrack Awards) and the Gent Festival van Vlaanderen (nl). Also, every five years, a huge botanical exhibition (Gentse Floraliën) takes place in Flanders Expo in Ghent, attracting numerous visitors to the city.

The Festival of Flanders had its 50th celebration in 2008. In Ghent it opens with the OdeGand City festivities that takes place on the second Saturday of September. Some 50 concerts take place in diverse locations throughout the medieval inner-city and some 250 international artists performs. Other major Flemish cities hold similar events, all of which form part of the Festival of Flanders (Antwerp with Laus Polyphoniae; Bruges with MAfestival; Brussels with KlaraFestival; Limburg with Basilica, Mechelen and Brabant with Novecento and Transit).

Nature[edit]

The numerous parks in the city can also be considered to be tourist attractions. Most notably, Ghent boasts a nature reserve (Bourgoyen-Ossemeersen, 230 hectare[11]) and a recreation park (Blaarmeersen, 100 hectare).

Economy[edit]

The port of Ghent, in the north of the city, is the third largest port of Belgium. It is accessed by the Ghent-Terneuzen Canal, which ends near the Dutch port of Terneuzen on the Western Scheldt. The port houses, among others, big companies like ArcelorMittal, Volvo Cars, Volvo Trucks, Volvo Parts, Honda, and Stora Enso.

The Ghent University and a number of research oriented companies are situated in the central and southern part of the city, such as Ablynx, Innogenetics, Cropdesign, Bayer Cropscience.

As the largest city in East-Flanders, Ghent has many hospitals, schools and shopping streets. Flanders Expo, the biggest event hall in Flanders, second biggest in Belgium, is also located in Ghent. Tourism is becoming a major employer in the local area.[citation needed]

Transport[edit]

As one of the largest cities in Belgium, Ghent has a highly developed transport system.

Ghent has the largest designated cyclist area in Europe, with nearly 400 kilometres of cycle paths and more than 700 one-way streets, where bikes are allowed to go against the traffic. It also boasts Belgium’s first cycle street, where cars are considered ‘guests’ and must stay behind cyclists.[10]

Sports[edit]

In the Belgian first football division Ghent is represented by K.A.A. Gent. Another Ghent football club is KRC Gent-Zeehaven, playing in the Belgian fourth division. A football match at the 1920 Summer Olympics was held in Ghent.[12]

Every year the Six Days of Flanders, a six-day track cycling race, is held in Ghent. It takes place in the Kuipke velodrome.

The city also hosts an annual track and field meet at the Flanders Sports Arena: the Indoor Flanders meeting. It is one of the IAAF's foremost indoor track and field events and two-time Olympic champion Hicham El Guerrouj set a world record at the event in 1997.

Famous people[edit]

Emperor Charles V was born in Ghent in 1500
Statue of Jacob van Artevelde on the Friday market in Ghent

International relations[edit]

Twin towns – Sister cities[edit]

Ghent is twinned with:[13]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

Notes
  1. ^ Population per municipality on 1 January 2012 (XLS; 214 KB)
  2. ^ Statistics Belgium; Werkelijke bevolking per gemeente op 1 januari 2009 (excel-file) Population of all municipalities in Belgium, as of 1 January 2009. Retrieved on 2010-11-28.
  3. ^ Statistics Belgium; Werkelijke bevolking per gemeente op 1 januari 2008 (excel-file) Population of all municipalities in Belgium, as of 1 January 2008. Retrieved on 2008-10-19.
  4. ^ Statistics Belgium; De Belgische Stadsgewesten 2001 (pdf-file) Definitions of metropolitan areas in Belgium. The metropolitan area of Ghent is divided into three levels. First, the central agglomeration (agglomeratie) with 278,457 inhabitants (1 January 2008). Adding the closest surroundings (banlieue) gives a total of 423,320. And, including the outer commuter zone (forensenwoonzone) the population is 594,582. Retrieved on 2008-10-19.
  5. ^ a b "History of Ghent". www.gent.be. Archived from the original on 2012-12-22. Retrieved 2006-05-05. [dead link]
  6. ^ Climate Summary for Ghent, Belgium
  7. ^ "Weatherbase.com". Weatherbase. 2013.  Retrieved on October 26, 2013.
  8. ^ "Ghent's veggie day: for English speaking visitors" on Vegetarisme.be
  9. ^ "Belgian city plans 'veggie' days" on BBC News (12 May 2009).
  10. ^ a b Belgium breaks: The best way to see glorious Ghent? On two wheels... | Mail Online
  11. ^ Nature Domain De Bourgoyen - VisitGent.be
  12. ^ FIFA Confederations Cup - Olympic Football Tournament Antwerp 1920 - FIFA.com
  13. ^ a b c d e f g h "Ghent Zustersteden". Stad Gent (in Dutch). City of Ghent. Retrieved 2013-07-20. 
  14. ^ "European networks and city partnerships". Nottingham City Council. 11 March. Retrieved 2013-07-20. 
  15. ^ "Wiesbaden's international city relations". Retrieved 24 December 2012. 

Further reading[edit]

Published in the 19th century
Published in the 20th century

External links[edit]