November 23, 2011

0049 BELGIUM (East Flanders) - Saint Bavo Cathedral - part of The historic medieval core or 'tank' of Ghent, and the two abbeys that are to its origin (UNESCO WHS - Tentative List)

"Until the 13th century Ghent was the biggest city in Europe after Paris; it was bigger than London, Cologne or Moscow", Wikipedia claims. Very true, but only if we don't consider Moorish Spain and Constantinople as part of Europe. Today, Ghent (Gent in Duch, Gand in French and formely Gaunt in English) has nearly a quarter million of inhabitants (which makes it Belgium's second largest municipality) and is the capital of the East Flanders province.

In Ghent was born, in 1500, Charles Quint, one of the most important monarchs of the Middle Ages, which will become Holy Roman Emperor, Archduke of Austria, King of Spain, King of Italy, Duke of Burgundy, Lord of the Netherlands and Count Palatine of Burgundy, in brief the ruler of an "empire on which the sun never sets", spanned nearly four million km2 across Europe, the Far East, and the Americas. Also here was born, with 160 years before, the first Duke of Lancaster, known as John of Gaunt.

Jan van Eyck (aproximativ 1395-1441), one of the best Northern European painters of the XVth century, wasn't born in Ghent, but here he painted his most important work, The Ghent Altarpiece or Adoration of the Mystic Lamb, a milestone in art history. Initially housed in the Joost Vijdt chapel at Saint Bavo Cathedral (Sint Baafskathedraal in Dutch), was later moved for security reasons to the chapel of the cathedral. Is the cathedral that you see in the picture, who holds also the recently-restored Conversion of St. Bavo (1624) by Rubens and a baroque organ, the largest in the Low Countries.

But before talking about it, I must say that one of the most important works of the Flemish painter, Portrait of a Goldsmith (Man with Ring; c. 1430), it's in Romania, but not in Bucharest, as claimed, again incorrectly, Wikipedia, but in Sibiu, on Brukenthal Museum. The Man with Blue Hood, as is known in Romania, was bought in the middle of the eighteenth century by Baron Samuel von Brukenthal (Governor of the Great Principality of Transylvania between 1777 and 1787), who was convinced all his life that the famous painting is a Durer.

Returning to Ghent, it must be said that much of the city's medieval architecture remains intact and is remarkably well preserved and restored. The imposing tower of the Saint Bavo Cathedral (95m) are just an example of the skyline of the period and in nowadays is accessible for the public during the Ghent festival week each July. This cathedral, based upon the Chapel of St. John the Baptist, was consecrated in 942, and in 1038 was expanded in the Romanesque style. From the XIVth through XVIth centuries, the projects was continues in the Gothic style until 1569, when the church had more or less its current exterior aspect. The patron of the cathedral, Saint Bavo (622-659), is also the patron saint of Ghent. Also here, in the nearly-completed church, was baptized Charles, the future Holy Roman Emperor.

The stamp, issued on January 2, 2009, shows Tulipa Bakeri – Lilac Wonder.

Sender: Svetlana (postcrossing)

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