Last week a rare natural phenomenon, an eclipse of the moon, was visible early in the morning – if you were lucky. Our alarm-clock, nowadays of course being a mobile phone, cruelly ended our night’s rest 4:30AM. We were ‘promised’ the evening before (weather-forecast on the telly) a clear view. Well, the view was not all that spectacular in Gent. Therefore a picture from Suzy Moore (Facebook). Caption: ‘Blood Moon from Kurkjufell Mountain Iceland’. This picture is shared almost 100.000 times on Facebook, so we hope she doesn’t mind us doing the same on our weblog. We now are eagerly awaiting the next opportunity. In 2033!!
(Gent, Korenmarkt – as seen from Hema’s roof terrace.) In 630AD Saint Amandus founded two abbeys on the banks of the Schelde: Sint-Baafs and Sint-Pieters. After raids by the Vikings the first wall around the city-to-be was realized around 864AD, followed by an enforced stronghold some 100 years later.
(Gent, Graslei – sign explaining that the view, sun, friends, relaxation, meeting a new love, historical Gent, (9) salutations, a unique atmosphere, fine people, poetry, a pleasant breeze and amusement are all for free. Careless dropping rubbish though will cost you € 120,00. We’ve never seen anybody checking on it, unfortunately.) Gent became a genuine city between 1100 and 1300AD. The stronghold became the Gravensteen Castle – see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gravensteen. Brick houses were built, together with abbeys and churches. A port was created, canals were dug out. The trade of cloth and grain developed. In short, creation of a prosperous and expanding city.
(Gent, Graslei – as seen from Korenlei. Note the narrow house on about 1/3 from the left.) At the beginning of the 14th century a first democratic-like administration is formed. The Belfort (see last week) is being built as well. In 1432AD Jan van Eyck completes ‘Het Lam Gods’, for the latter see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ghent_Altarpiece. The second half of the 15th century is marked by a severe conflict with Philip the Good, duke of Burgundy, who took away all privileges from the ‘Gentenaars’. His granddaughter Mary of Burgundy reinstated the privileges 24 years later, in 1477AD.
(Gent, Korenlei – as seen from Graslei. At present the centre-front is completely hidden from view by scaffolding and spoiled by a temporary bridge. So we scanned a postcard… Might that be illegal??) Charles V (1500 – 1558), emperor of the Holy Roman Empire, was born in Gent on the 24th of February. More about him at: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Charles_V,_Holy_Roman_Emperor. Charles enacts laws against Luther in 1521; start of religious troubles (what’s new???). In 1540 he punishes Gent because of rebellious behavior – still commemorated as part of the Gentse Feesten, see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gentse_Feesten, or even better the same page in Dutch. He, Charles V, created the Seventeen Provinces during the 1540ties, see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Seventeen_Provinces. After Charles’ death the ‘iconoclastic fury’ took place in 1566; systematic destruction of art treasures in churches and abbeys (what’s new???). Ten years later Gent was pacified; the southern (catholic) and northern (protestant) Netherlands tried to achieve a settlement about freedom of religion and combining their forces against the occupier from Spain. From 1577 through 1584 there has even been a calvinistic(!) ‘Gentse Republiek’, initiated by Frans van Ryhove and Jan van Hembyze. The first died in the northern Netherlands (Utrecht?), the latter was decapitated in Gent in 1584. It’s all highly interesting! Unfortunately Wikipedia provides the information about the two men and the short-lived calvinistic regime only in the Dutch language. Learn Dutch!
(Gent – view across the river Leie from Kraanlei, close to the Vleeshuisbrug.) The 17th century has seen the building of the Sint-Pieterskerk, again, see: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/St._Peter%27s_Abbey,_Ghent, extension of the town hall and building of numerous abbeys and churches in baroque-style. The building of the ‘Brugse Vaart’, a canal from Gent towards Brugge (and beyond) started in 1613. Antoon Triest (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anthonius_Triest) was installed as Gent’s 7th –and Brugge’s 5th- bishop in 1622. He was a pioneer in re-instating catholicism, a maecenas for the cathedral and gave the pope some trouble. The end of this century witnessed the building of the fish-mine(?) and a second grain-mine(?). An overall improvement of prosperity was noticeable.
(Gent – taken from the same spot as the last picture, the photographer’s body slightly turned to the left.) The age of the economic revival now, being the 18th. After the War on the Spanish Succession (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/War_of_the_Spanish_Succession) Austria took over from Spain in 1713, based upon the Treaty of Utrecht (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Treaty_of_Utrecht). George Frideric Handel composed The Utrecht te Deum (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Utrecht_Te_Deum_and_Jubilate) for the occasion, by the way. Prosperity was growing. A strong influence by French culture started. A canal, Coupure, was dug out in between the river Leie and the Brugse Vaart; sea-going vessels were able to reach Gent’s city centre. Later on, in the course of the French Revolution, the entire region (including territories that were never under Austrian rule, like the Bishopric of Liège) was overrun by France in 1794 then annexed to the Republic (October 1, 1795). A lot of abbeys and churches are closed and demolished.
(Gent – still the river Leie, some 200 yards closer to the bridge that is visible on the last picture. It’s not laziness we can assure you, a large part of Gent is simply picture-perfect.) The 19th century, the century of Industrial Revolution. In the year 1800 Lieven Bauwens (1769 – 1822) (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lieven_Bauwens) smuggled a so-called Mule Jenny (or Spinning Mule) (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Spinning_mule) from England into Belgium, thus bringing the Industrial Revolution to Belgium. After the Napoleonic era as from 1815 the United Kingdom of the Netherlands consisting nowadays The Netherlands, Belgium and Luxembourg was formed (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_Kingdom_of_the_Netherlands). The unity ended already after some 15 years – Belgium got its independency. (Luxembourg not earlier than 1890, when King William III of The Netherlands died, leaving a female heiress (Wilhelmina) to the throne. Luxembourg only could be ruled by a male ruler, that’s why. A bit out of date nowadays. Anyway, talking about the united period Gent got its own university, a sea-canal towards Terneuzen (Dutch Zeelandic Flanders) and ongoing development of its textile industry. This all was reason for Orangism (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Orangism_(Belgium) ), Gent not being an exception – on the contrary.
(Gent – house in baroque-style, corner Kraanlei/Rodekoningstraat.) Just before the Great War started, Gent had its world’s fair in 1913 (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Exposition_universelle_et_internationale_(1913)). We will not elaborate on WWI and WWII, not only because that is comparatively recent history but it is too much – and we have (partly) done it before. Of course there has been a lot of infrastructural works, like sports accommodations, council housing, swimming pools, ring canal around Gent, harbour works, enlarging the university (batavianization of it too – but that’s a fairly difficult word: see therefore https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Batavianization), construction of motorways. Nowadays the number of inhabitants of the city of Gent exceeds 250.000 – and the urban area 600.000.
On the first Saturday and Sunday of every month there’s an antique fair, held inside the Sint-Niclaas church. This is what it looks like when entering the church. A division is made halfway the church, creating space for the fair and leaving the part where the altar is a church. So hats and caps can remain in place and mini-skirts worn without a problem in the front part of the church – unlike the part of the church behind the double glass door in the back of the picture. There’s single civilization on the one hand and civilization combined with courtesy and/or decency on the other, isn’t it?
On top of the table that is visible in the foreground of the last picture a lot of boxes were placed containing pictures and postcards. (It was almost sad for someone loving family-history, to see what people obviously no longer cherish. But then again, perhaps that’s just what happens to all of us eventually and therefore ‘normal’.) We found a pile of old telegrams –really!- too and leafed through them, just out of curiosity. We bought two, one of them being ‘a prove of Flemish humour’ as the seller pointed out – and rightfully so. The one shown is a greetings telegram, sent on the 21st of October 1950 to the bridal couple (Alfred) De Meyer-(Julienne) De Pauw. (If they were 25 on average then they will be 90 now. Would they, or one of them, still be alive?) Translation for the English speaking world: “By putting on this ring" “Alfred is master of Julienneken’s thing" “Be sweet like rabbits" “And breed dozens of little kids". Ring is the same word in Dutch and English. By calling it ‘ringsken’ the word changes into a much lovelier diminutive (a ‘charm-word’?). Thing = ding in Dutch. When changed into ‘dingsken’ it has the same effect as ‘ringsken’. One would never call Julienneken’s ‘thing’ a ‘ding’ – that could be interpreted as rude. ‘Dingsken’ is a diminutive and absolutely charming as a result. And it rhymes! The last two sentences are a slightly adapted by us to make it rhyme in English – well, more or less. The purport remains unaffected.
Before we cruised to Brugge to be there for a week we were moored close to a bridge that is visible on the last but one picture of last week. On a Sunday two weeks ago, so on the 20th of September, an artist painter was painting our little ship, the bridge serving as a nice background. Today, two weeks later, he showed us the result. The painting is shown here, together with its (very patient) ‘sitter’. We like the result very much and asked the artist painter, even if we are not that wealthy and do not know yet where to put it on display, whether he would consider selling this work of art to us. Both he and we are considering our options at present. He’s here every Sunday, providing the weather allows him to paint. We are planning to be here for the coming 3 weeks, so we might come to an arrangement. Fingers crossed! (Excuses for the opened hatchback-lid. We could not cut it away without unacceptably damaging the picture.) Bye for now.