Belfry & Beguinages of Ghent (Flanders - Belgium)

As I said in the earlier post about Tournai’s Belfry, there are 56 Belfries in whole France & Belgium that are enlisted under UNESCO. Remember my post on the Great Beguinage of Leuven? Similar to that a total of 13 Beguinages in Flanders were enlisted under UNESCO in 1998. 2 of the 3 Beguinages in Ghent are among those 13 sites.
Let me begin with the Belfry. Ghent received its municipal rights and civic privileges in 1180. By 1313, the construction of this Belfry began to celebrate their independence. In those days only the lower half of the present tower was present. The upper section was made of wood and was continuously replaced. The upper part of the Belfry was constructed of stone only in the 14th C following the design idea of Tournai Belfry which was constructed in 12-13th C CE. This was then the safest place and all business and offices were around it incl the 15th C Cloth Hall and this also housed a prison in 18th C! Right atop is the golden ‘Dragon of Ghent’, the city’s symbol! 
The main bell in the belfry is called the Roeland Bell and it has been ringing since 1314 CE. It was originally used as a warning bell. When it cracked, this was melted to create 40 smaller bells which form the carillon today. In 1660 CE the 2nd Roland bell was cast and the present one in 1948 CE.
As soon as you enter there is a small museum. Beyond this is the platform from which the underground ‘secret chamber’ can be seen. After climbing the first floor there is an option to either climb to the top or take the lift. The pregnant me decided to take the lift. On the 3rd floor is the Roeland bell and on the 4th floor is the clarion. I was bang on time there. I was there at 11:49 AM! Then the stupid thing happened! I ended up at the 4th floor and not the 3rd floor and totally missed the 12 noon bell inspite of being inside the Belfry!!!!! 


Over to the Beguinages (read about who beguines are). The 3 beguinages here are located in the outskirts in 3 different directions from the city centre! One of the 2 UNESCO sites is the Great St.Elizabeth Beguinage also called Grand Beguinage Sint-Amandsberg or Groot Begijnhof St.Elizabeth. This was built in 1873-74 CE under Duke Engelbert of Arenberg. It was then an extremely challenging task to construct 80 houses, 14 convents, a communal house, an infirmary, a chapel and a church all in 2 years!!! The last beguine here died in 2008. Of all the 13 beguinages, this is the newest one and built in 19th C Neo Gothic style! 

This is located just behind Gent Damspoort railway station. So this was the very last site I saw before hopping onto the train back home. The Begijnhof by itself is exceptionally large and the Cathedral is just huge & tall with 2 floors, filled with stunning stained glass. However like my luck in the Beguinages of Leuven as well, the churches were closed and couldn’t see the interiors!!!


The other Beguinage under UNESCO in Ghent is the Small Beguinage our Ledy Ter Hoyen also called Petit Béguinage de Gent or Klein Begijnhof OLV Ter Hoyen. This was built in 1235 CE under Countess of Flanders who also built the Old St.Elizabeth Beguinage before this. This has around 100 homes, a church, 2 chapels and a meadow (which was a churchyard). Like my luck in all UNESCO Begijnhofs, here too the church was closed!!!


I believe the interiors also has some interesting frescoes, coz even exteriors have a couple of frescoes which have been protected today with a small ceiling and frontage. One thing that intrigued me was certain windows were actually walls that were painted like windows. I have no clue for the reason behind it! 


The 3rd and only beguinage of Ghent that’s not under UNESCO is the Old St.Elizabeth Beguinage or Ancien Béguinage Sainte-Elisabeth. I reached here early in the morning of Day 2. Beguinages & Bridges seem to the first thing I see in the mornings, happened in Leuven & Tournai. Basically these are the places that don’t require any tickets or has any working hours. So on Day 2, I began with Rabot (more about which is coming up soon) and my next stop was this beguinage. 

Unlike the other 2, this doesn’t have an outer wall and is kinda mingled with the city streets. Infact the main road where the tram runs is also a part of Beguinage street! This had more than 100 churches, an infirmary, a chapel and most importantly the home ‘mother superior’. When the new Groot begijnhof was built in 1874, the beguines here moved there. I headed to the church. This was luckily open, but that luck didn’t last! The mass was on and here too, I didn’t get to enjoy the interiors of the church!!!
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To Stay:
Hotels at all price points are available in Ghent City Centre.
Here’s my review of Ghent River Hotel where I stayed.

To Get There:
To Ghent: Refer to my earlier post
Local transport in Ghent possible with bus & tram (incl in the City Card Ghent All in).
On Google Maps: BelfryGreat St.Elizabeth BeguinageSmall Beguinage our Ledy Ter HoyenOld St.Elizabeth Beguinage
Nearest Bus/Tram stop: Gent Stadhuis, Gent Van Arenbergstraat, Gent Vijfwindgatenstraat, Gent Rabotstraat respectively

Entry Ticket & Timings:
Belfry: €8.00; Free for under-19s; 10:00AM to 6:00PM
Included in the City Card Gent All In.
All Beguinages: Free to enter and open 24x7

My complete Gent travelogue: Illuminated night walkGravensteen Castle of the CountsSt.Bavo’s Cathedral & St.Michael’s CathedralHistorical City Centre

P.S: I was invited by VisitGent to experience the city and hosted by Historic Hotels Belgium for review purposes, however the opinions are my own and this post does not to advertise the product/service.

Bhushavali N

An ardent traveler by passion. I am a wanderlust.. Read more about me here.

22 comments:

  1. This is quite interesting. I didn’t know what belfry was. Glad that these are protected and restored. I would love to take that tram. They have an inimitable old world charm. Loved reading this blog.

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  2. Belfry is a new concept for me. I never knew about it. Beguinages which are located outskirts of city are also lovely and interesting. More than 100 churches in one place must be so amazing. Would love to hear Church bells ringing from all 100 at same time. Also under 19 are free to enter is a nice tip.

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  3. This is very interesting, I like to visit places full of history and this looks like one :) I can't believe there were more than 100 churches in such a tiny place! I did see a church bell once, they are massive!

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  4. I didn't realize you could go to the top of the Belfry's in Belgium. I'm impressed you made it up there whilst pregnant, lift or no lift! I missed the other UNESCO sites whilst in Ghent which was silly as I too entered by the train station so must have been close!

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  5. I must admit Belfry is a very new term for me!! Whatever it is, I'm amazed by the architecture of the place and the historical significance associated with it. Europe has a vivid history and I love to read more on thar through your blogs.

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  6. Your detailed account of these monuments are very insightful. It shows the rich history and culture of Europe. I am surprised there are hardly an tourists in your pics since i am sure these must be popular places for people to visit.

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  7. Ghent looks really interesting, it seems very over-looked with tourists. I have heard of it but never knew it had such rich history. the structures are well preserved too.

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  8. It's funny that you missed the bell while inside the Belfry but it's a good story to tell over and over again to friends. It may be one of your most unforgettable experience while traveling. :)

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  9. it makes me happy when i see people are protecting these kind of places. they are beautiful and amazing. i am a big fan of unesco sites and wish to visit all of them one day.

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  10. Love the little quaint locations in Europe like Ghent. Didn't know what a Belfry was - so you learn something new everyday.

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  11. I honestly did not know about Belfry. Thank you for sharing your report with us. Really inspiring.

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  12. Always nice to see what other people think and see of my country and in the mean time I learn things :) ;)

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  13. Thank you for the brief historical information about these places. And I admire your strength for traveling while pregnant. Let's hope your baby will be a future traveler like you :)

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  14. Again, beautiful churches. These are all Catholic churches? I did not know that Belgium is a Catholic country. Very interesting day indeed, especially about the bells.

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  15. I'll admit I had to google what a belfry was lol. So cool. I didn't get to visit any when I was in Belgium many years ago but I definitely would if I ever make it back. Congrats on the blogger nomination, you've definitely got my vote!

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  16. We remember visiting Ghent a year back as a day trip from Brussels and how we fell in love with its architecture. Ghent City is an amazing amalgam of modern and medieval architecture and has some of the gorgeous churches and the town hall.

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  17. Oh boy, the names are difficult to read. On the other hand, these places scream interesting. Indeed Belgium is one beautiful country to visit.

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  18. This place clearly takes you back in time. That was a great dose of history for the day. Good to see that old buildings like these are maintained and protected well.

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  19. Wow, such an interesting post! These places aren't typically on my must sees but some really cool pictures. Makes me want to visit!

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  20. That is such a great place to visit. I am really impressed in the pictures, it'a really catch my attention.

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  21. I'm obsessed with Flemish architecture, and it looks like Ghent would make me very happy! I love the Belfry's in this area of the world. Lille has something similar, they are so beautiful - I sadly did not get to climb it though!

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  22. I learned something new today especially about Belfry. Such an interesting posts. Love your photos as well. Thank you so much for sharing. ♥

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