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Ghent (gĕnt), Du. Gent, Fr. Gand, city (1991 pop. 230,246), capital of East Flanders prov., W Belgium, at the confluence of the Scheldt and Leie rivers. Connected with the North Sea by the Ghent-Terneuzen Canal and by a network of other canals, Ghent is a major port and the chief textile and banking center of Belgium. Other products of the city include metals, chemicals, paper, processed food, and motor vehicles. It is also the trade center of a flower- and bulb-producing region. Ghent is an episcopal seat and has a university (founded 1816) as well as numerous museums.

Points of Interest

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. Bavo (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 in 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.

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The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.



(Flemish, Gent; French, Gand), a city in Belgium on the Schelde River at its confluence with the Lys. Connected by canals with the ports of Ostend and Terneuzen on the North Sea. Administrative center of the province of East Flanders. Population, including suburbs, 229,700 (1969).

Ghent first appeared in historical sources in the seventh century. From the 11th to 12th centuries it was one of the chief centers of cloth manufacture in Europe. Although the city was directly under the authority of the counts of Flanders, in the 12th and 13th centuries it won considerable independence in the management of internal urban affairs, and it became one of the centers of sociopolitical struggle in Flanders. The population of the city took part in the Flanders Uprising of 1323-28, then in the rebellion of 1338, which was led by J. van Artevelde, and in the Ghent Uprising of 1539-40. Ghent was one of the centers of the revolutionary movement during the time of the Netherlands Bourgeois Revolution in the 16th century. As a result of the general decline of guild crafts, Ghent lost its position in the 16th century. The city underwent an economic revival again in the 19th century.

Ghent is a major industrial center and transportation junction. It is the second most important port in the country and the chief textile center. Cotton and linen production predominate. The city is noted for metallurgy, a textile and electrotechnical machine-building industry, oil refining, and chemical and food-processing industries, including flour milling and beer brewing. Its lace industry has been noted for a long time. The city imports cotton, flax, coal, petroleum, and other raw materials.

Ghent is a center of Flemish culture. The university was founded in 1817. There are archaeology and fine arts museums. The city has a medieval plan and an abundance of architectural monuments dating from the Roman period. The castle of the counts of Flanders was erected between 1180 and 1200. It has an oval plan, with strong walls and towers. The storehouse for grain was built circa 1200. Old squares and quays give the center of Ghent the appearance of a museum city. Ghent is especially rich in Gothic buildings. The Cathedral of St. Bavon, under construction from about 1228 to 1559, contains the Ghent altarpiece by the brothers van Eyck. The city tower, which is 91 m high, was built from 1183 to 1339. The town hall, which was built between 1518 and 1535, was designed by the architects D. De Waghemakere and R. Keldermans. The House of Free Shipowners dates from 1530-31 and the fortified Bridge of Travails from 1489. There are also numerous medieval churches, monasteries, and residential buildings. Later buildings include the Palace of Justice, 1836-46, designed by L. Roelandt, and the university library, 1935-40, by C. van de Velde. The new industrial districts are also worthy of note.


Pirenne, H. Srednevekovye goroda Bel’gii. Moscow, 1937. (Translated from French.)
D’Hondt, J., and P. de Keyser. Gent. [Antwerp, 1947.]
Fris, V. Histoire de Gand. Brussels, 1913.
Keyser, P. de. 1000-jarig Gent. Ghent, 1949.
The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.


an industrial city and port in NW Belgium, capital of East Flanders province, at the confluence of the Rivers Lys and Scheldt: formerly famous for its cloth industry; university (1816). Pop.: 229 344 (2004 est.)
Collins Discovery Encyclopedia, 1st edition © HarperCollins Publishers 2005
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