Another noteworthy building in Oudenaarde is the Church of Our Lady of Pamele which dominates the surroundings. A bronze plaque on the outside of the ambulatory states the date of building, 1234, and the name of the master builder, Arnulf van Binche. It was finished 30 years later. The church, made of Tournai limestone, has all the main characteristics of early-Gothic style: a double lengthwise gallery or passage in the width of the side walls and an octagonal crossing tower. In the beginning of the 14th century both the west side and the transept got larger late-Gothic windows. In the 16th century two chapels in Brabant Gothic style, made of sandstone, were added to the south side. Bet we couldn't build it today.
Wednesday, April 30, 2014
Tuesday, April 29, 2014
Monday, April 28, 2014
We next visited the city of Oudenaarde. The history of the current municipality of Oudenaarde starts in 974, when Otto II, Holy Roman Emperor and King of Germany, built one of its three fortifications on the Scheldt at Ename to protect his kingdom against possible attacks from Francia (the other two frontier posts were at Valenciennes and Antwerp). Ename grew very fast. By 1005, the town already had a couple of churches and had become the largest town in the duchy of Lotharingia. In 1033, Baldwin IV, Count of Flanders took the city as a frontier post against emperor Henry III. In 1047, Baldwin V consolidated his father’s victory by having his wife found a Benedictine abbey there. By that time, the former merchants and guild artisans of Ename had fled across the Scheldt to the recently founded city of Oudenaarde. In the 11th century, Oudenaarde’s economy flourished, thanks to the proximity of the Scheldt and to the burgeoning, but vibrant cloth and tapestry industry. Churches, cloisters and hospitals were built. Throughout the Middle Ages, the city was one of the staunchest supporters of the Counts of Flanders, defending them against insurrections from the South, and even from Ghent. The city became known as the residence of the nobles. It built itself a flagship town hall (built 1526–1537), which we can still admire today, and the St-Walpurga church. Charles V stayed here for a couple of months in 1522 and fathered an illegitimate daughter, Margaret of Parma, who was to become Regent of the Netherlands. During the Reformation, the people of Oudenaarde chose Protestantism and allied themselves with Ghent against Charles V. In 1582, after a prolonged siege by Margaret's son, Alexander Farnese, the city finally gave in, causing most merchants, workers, and even nobles to flee. Oudenaarde fell under the Counter-Reformation, which revived for a short while the commerce of tapestry. The glory days, however, never came back. The French attacked and took the city three times in less than a century. In 1708, one of the key battles in the War of the Spanish Succession, known as the Battle of Oudenaarde, was fought in the vicinity of the city. Oudenaarde slumbered as a provincial town under the Habsburg regime. Like its neighbours, in the 1790s it suffered the religious curtailments imposed by the French Revolution. The city suffered damages during World War I, which is commemorated by several monuments scattered around town. The Flamboyant Gothic-style Town Hall and its Belfry were designated by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site in 1999. The city hall houses a unique collection of Oudenaarde tapestries. The town hall is pictured here.
Friday, April 25, 2014
Wednesday, April 23, 2014
Tuesday, April 22, 2014
One cool place we stopped at was the Liefmans Brewery. The story of Liefmans began in the 17th century, when Jacobus Liefmans set up business as a brewer in Oudenaarde. The building (which is pictured here) on Aalststraat, on the banks of the River Schelde, has now been standing for more than 300 years. A visit to the Liefmans brewery will transport you to a different world. It’s only in Oudenaarde that you’ll find the microflora that make Liefmans such a unique beer. For centuries, Oudenaarde has been famous for its fruit beers – years ago, there were 20 breweries in the town. Nowhere else on earth will you find such a perfect environment for making fantastic beer. The original brewing apparatus has been retained and forms part of a living museum. It was around 1900 that Liefmans started filling maturation tanks with black cherries, on a small scale. Local farmers brought their excess crops of black cherries to Liefmans and swapped them for beer.The taste and colour of this cherry beer has undergone a metamorphosis since then. One individual who played a key part in this was Rosa Merckx. A highly gifted lady (her talents included ballet), she was closely involved in the brewery’s operations over several decades. Thanks to her encouragement, the cherry beer evolved into a real success story. She was a severe, uncompromising woman who more than held her own in order to make a difference in the world of Belgian beers. Liefmans was the first brewery to wrap every bottle by hand in tissue paper. In honour of Rosa Merckx, her signature now appears on every Liefmans label. Along with today’s master brewers, she still keeps an eye on the quality of Liefmans’ products.
Monday, April 21, 2014
Friday, April 18, 2014
A must see in Ghent is the Gravensteen castle originating from the Middle Ages. The name means "castle of the count" in Dutch. The present castle was built in 1180 by count Philip of Alsace and was modeled after the crusaders castles that Philip of Alsace encountered while he participated in the second crusade. Before its construction, there stood a wooden castle on the same location, presumably built in the ninth century. The castle served as the seat of the Counts of Flanders until they abandoned it in the 14th century. The castle was then used as a courthouse, a prison and eventually decayed. Houses were built against the walls and even on the courtyard and the stones of the walls were used to erect other buildings. At one time it even served as a factory. At the end of the 19th century, the castle was scheduled to be demolished. In 1885 the city of Ghent bought the castle and started a renovation project. The newly built houses were removed and the walls and dungeon were restored to their original condition. The castle has been repaired enough to allow people to travel through it and climb on top. It is still partly surrounded by the moat. Inside is a museum with various torture devices (and a guillotine) that were historically used in Ghent. The exhibits in the torture room are a bit grim so I will not be showing any images of them.
Tuesday, April 15, 2014
Monday, April 14, 2014
This was shot on the wall of the Marriott in Ghent. It used to be a brothel for hundreds of years. How did I know that the Marriott Ghent was once a brothel? There are two swans adorning the outside of this beautiful historic, 150 room hotel. One swan on the outside of the building represents a brewery; two swans – a brothel. They proudly keep the insignia denoting that fact outside: two swans facing against each other, not mating for life...a Belgian way of saying, “No strings attached.”
Friday, April 11, 2014
Thursday, April 10, 2014
While walking around in Ghent I found this mural. It is on the exterior of the Groot Huis (former Royal Dutch Theatre) facing Ghent’s Sint-Baefsplein. This is a sgraffito painted tympanum by Constant Montald (1862–1944), a Belgian painter, muralist, sculptor and teacher. The tympanum’s allegorical scene shows Apollo, on his chariot, being led by the Muses.
Wednesday, April 9, 2014
Tuesday, April 8, 2014
Then we headed down the canals to Ghent. Asking citizens of Ghent what they think of their city is a pointless exercise: you’ll find only unanimous love. And with good reason. Ghent is one of Europe's greatest discoveries – small enough to feel cozy but big enough to stay vibrant. It has enough medieval frivolity to create a spectacle but retains a gritty industrial edge that keeps things ‘real’. Tourists remain surprisingly thin on the ground, (it rained when we were there, so that may have had something to do with it) yet with its fabulous canal-side architecture, wealth of quirky bars and some of Belgium’s most fascinating museums, this is a city you really won’t want to miss. Speaking of gritty here is some industrial/canal 'art' that I shot as we were entering the town.
Monday, April 7, 2014
Friday, April 4, 2014
Because of its canals Bruges is often called 'The Venice of the North'. Here is a view of one of the canals with the 'belfry of Bruges', or Belfort, (a medieval belfry dating from 1280) in the distance. This most important of Bruges’ towers stands 83 metres tall. It houses a treasure-chamber, an impressive clock mechanism and a carillon with 47 silvertoned bells. If you want, you can climb up the tower’s 366 stairs to a breathtaking and unforgettable panoramic view of Bruges and her surroundings.