Castle of the Counts - Gravensteen, Gent

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  • Castle of the Counts - Gravensteen
    by Roadquill
  • Castle of the Counts - Gravensteen
    by Roadquill
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    Gravensteen Castle
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    Gravensteen Castle

    by HORSCHECK Written Mar 1, 2014

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    The Gravensteen Castle was built in the late 12th century by the count Philip of Alsace. The word Gravensteen is Dutch and stands for "Castle of the Counts", so the castle was the seat of the counts of Flanders until the 14th century.

    Afterwards it was used for several purposes such as a mint, a prison and even a cotton plant. Nowadays the castle can be visited as a museum.

    Directions:
    The Gravensteen Castle is located on the eastern bank of the river Lieve, right in the heat of Gent's historic city centre. The tram stop "Gravensteen" can be found right in front of the castle.

    Address: Gravensteen Castle, Sint-Veerleplein 11, 9000 Gent

    Website: http://www.gravensteengent.be/

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    Castle Torture Display - Stop It, Your Killing Me

    by Roadquill Written Aug 6, 2013

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    This tip only relates to the display rooms devoted to medieval torture practices. There were several rooms with explanations and displays of a myriad methods of torturing and executing people. Considering that surviving past childhood was hard enough, let alone not getting injured, an infection, eating some rotten food, being volunteered for military duty...now comes along an entire profession dedicated to accelerating your demise. It did seem to employ a lot of people. Knife sharpeners, iron workers, woodworkers, garment providers... what were these people thinking? Didn't they hear of waterboarding?

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    Gravensteen, Prison Stamps

    by von.otter Written Jan 20, 2013
    Gravensteen, Ghent, May 2011
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    Gravensteen, meaning castle of the counts in Flemish, is an impressive sight. Built in 1180 by Philippe d’Alsace, count of Flanders, Gravensteen Castle is a worthwhile visit for anyone who enjoys history. Featuring walls that measure two meters (6.5-foot) thick Gravensteen features a torture museum, showcasing various torture methods that were once used at the castle.

    Prisoners of the Central Prison, set up in the castle in the 18th century, were put to work in the textile industry, making various types of cloth that were mainly destined for the export market. Before the cloth left the castle workshops, the cloth was marked with an ink stamp that stated its destination, the company name’s or the merchant.

    Opening hours in summer, 1.April to 31.October, are every day from 10.00 to 18.00; amd during the winter, from 1.November to 31.March, every day from 09.00 to 17.00. Tickets are available to 45 minutes before closing. Gravensteen is closed on 24, 25 and 31.December and on 1.January.

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    Gravensteen, Exterior, Part I

    by von.otter Updated Dec 17, 2012

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    Gravensteen, Ghent, May 2011
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    “Now a little square opens before you, with the old castle of the Dukes of Flanders in one corner, in one of the rooms of which our John of Gaunt was born, when Philippa was visiting Ghent.”
    — from a letter, dated 28.January.1858, written by Samuel Clark (1810-1875, Rector of Eaton Bishop, Herefordshire) to his sister, Mrs. Elizabeth Victor

    COUNT ON DUKES Mr. Clark was mistaken; the lords of Flanders held the title of count, not duke. He was correct about the square in front of Gravensteen, meaning castle of the count in Flemish, where the counts lived.

    Gravensteen, meaning castle of the count in Dutch, was one of several castles built by the counts of Flanders throughout the county in principal cities. Because the presence of the ruling figure helped to maintain law and order, they continuously moved from one town to another. Having a fortified castle at their disposal in the major cities where they wished to stop for a few months was a necessity. The castle at Ghent is the only one that has survived the centuries, more or less as it had been built. From the outside it is an impressive sight, featuring two meters (6.5 foot) thick walls.

    Excavations in the area of the caste have shown evidence that three fortified castles, built in wood, had stood on the site of today’s Gravensteen. Around AD 1000 the first stone castle was built here. The chimney and the fireplace of this castle can be found in the walls of the lower floors of the main tower.

    Opening hours, 1.April to 31.October, are every day from 10.00 to 18.00, and from 1.November to 31.March, every day from 09.00 to 17.00. Tickets are available to 45 minutes before closing. Gravensteen is closed on 24, 25 and 31.December and on 1.January.

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    Gravensteen Castle

    by Nemorino Written Dec 12, 2012

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    Gravensteen Castle from the canal boat
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    This was the Count’s Castle in the Middle Ages, starting in the year 1180, but of course it didn’t look as fancy then as it does now.

    After a long period of neglect, the castle was bought by the city of Ghent in 1885 and was remodeled in typical nineteenth century fashion, with all sorts of towers and turrets that probably weren’t even there in previous centuries.

    So now it looks like something out of Disneyland or Las Vegas, but at least it is still at the same spot where the Counts or Dukes of Flanders had their castle in earlier times.

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    Gravensteen Castle

    by mindcrime Updated Oct 16, 2012

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    Castle of the Counts (Gravensteen in dutch) is an castle that takes you back to early medieval times. It was built in 1180 by count Philip of Alsace on the site of a previously wooden castle. The first centuries was the seat of Coubtis of Flanders and was the main military stronghold while later (after 14th century) turned into a prison and later a cotton mill! It was planned to be demolished at the end of 19th century but a renovation saved it and we can enjoy our walk there through the thick walls, check some rooms/halls that hold exhibition and climb to the top to enjoy the view.

    We started with some pictures on the inner yard and then started to follow the arrows that guide you through different rooms and levels of the castle. I always like this because you don’t really have to check any plan, before every room there was a wall sign that was offerening information about the room, its use and some historical events.

    We saw the Governor’s House (12th century) and the Upstairs Hall, we checked quickly some exhibits and went out to the Platform where we had some nice view, in those times they used the rampart round the platform the garrison could harass the invaders, hopefully in our days the tourists just pay the entrance fee without trying to climb the castle walls :)

    Then we entered the Room of the Countess and the Residential Apartments that now houses the Museum of Torture instruments where you can enjoy (?) things like a guillotine…

    I found the prisons cells more scary after reading that the cold and the terrible hygienic circumstances at the pit (5,5 meters deep) put them in slow death.

    We checked some more rooms and then walked outside at Wall Walk (it was defended by 24 protruding towers with loopholes and battlements with shutters). Some last pictures and we were ready to return back to the town.

    The castle is open daily 10.00-17.00 (april to September), 9.00-16.00(October to march)
    The entrance fee is 8euro

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    Gravensteen, Rooftop Flags

    by von.otter Updated Oct 12, 2012

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    Gravensteen, Rooftop Flags, Ghent, May 2011
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    From the roof of Gravensteen, visitors have a panoramic view over Ghent. The flags of Flanders, East Flanders and Ghent flutter and flap in the breeze from the castle’s rooftop battlements.

    All three flags feature the lion of Flanders (‘Vlaenderen die Leu’), only the backgrounds vary. For Flanders the red-tongued black lion runs rampant on a gold field (see photos #1& #2); for East Flanders, a black lion with red tongue prances on a background of horizontal white and green stripes (see photos #3 & #5); and for the city of Ghent (capital of East Flanders) the crowned lion is white, with a red tongue (see photo #4) on a black field.

    Opening hours in summer, 1.April to 31.October, are every day from 10.00 to 18.00; amd during the winter, from 1.November to 31.March, every day from 09.00 to 17.00. Tickets are available to 45 minutes before closing. Gravensteen is closed on 24, 25 and 31.December and on 1.January.

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    Gravensteen, Its Arrowslits

    by von.otter Updated Oct 12, 2012

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    Gravensteen, Its Arrowslits, Ghent, May 2011
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    While visiting Gravensteen take note of the arrowslits. These long, narrow openings were used by archers to shoot their arrows at advancing armies.

    It is said that Archimedes invented the arrowslit during the siege of Syracuse, 214 BC to 212 BC. Used by the Greeks and Romans, arrowslits were reintroduced at the end of the 12th century. The castles of Dover and Framlingham in England, as well as Richard the Lionheart’s Château Gaillard in France are three early examples. In the following century, arrowslits were regularly placed around a castle’s walls.

    Opening hours in the summer, 1.April to 31.October, are every day from 10.00 to 18.00; amd during the winter, from 1.November to 31.March, every day from 09.00 to 17.00. Tickets are available to 45 minutes before closing. Gravensteen is closed on 24, 25 and 31.December and on 1.January.

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    Gravensteen, The View

    by von.otter Updated Oct 12, 2012

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    Gravensteen, Rooftop View, Ghent, May 2011
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    From the roof of Gravensteen, visitors have a panoramic view over Ghent. Next to the castle lies the Sint-Veerleplein (St. Veerle Square, see photo #1). The Church of St Veerle gave the square its name. This church was the court church of the counts of Flanders; it was demolished in 1581. Public executions took place in the square from the 13th to the 18th centuries; it was the only place in Flanders for the punishment of counterfeiters. Until the early 20th century the square served as a vegetable market. Today the square is bordered with restaurants and cafés.

    Gravensteen’s opening hours in the summer, 1.April to 31.October, are every day from 10.00 to 18.00; amd during the winter, from 1.November to 31.March, every day from 09.00 to 17.00. Tickets are available to 45 minutes before closing. Gravensteen is closed on 24, 25 and 31.December and on 1.January.

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    Gravensteen, Its Armor Collection

    by von.otter Written Oct 4, 2012

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    Gravensteen, Its Armor, Ghent, May 2011
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    Once it was abandoned as seat of political power and as an aristocratic residence, Gravensteen was used for different purposes. It was used as the mint and later as the main prison of Ghent.

    In the 19th century Gravensteen became swept-up in the bustling Belgian textile industry. Ghent was at the center of this booming business. Gravensteen was used as a metal-foundry and cotton-mill in the 1800s.

    During this period of frenzied industry, the castle was owned by Jean-Denis Brismaille. He converted the entire building into a huge industrial complex of metal foundries and cotton-mills; he installed a water wheel to power the machinery; and built housing for 50 working families in the inner courtyard.

    When Brismaille moved his operations to larger and more suitable facilities, he left the old castle a battered and ruined place, few people had any affection for it.

    The decrepit condition of Gravensteen did not linger long. In the mid-1800s, the Romantic movement, sweeping through Europe, latched onto the grandeur and symbolism of the old castle, and set out to restore it to its former glory.

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    Gravensteen, Its Vaulted Ceilings

    by von.otter Written Oct 4, 2012

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    Gravensteen, Vaulted Ceilings, Ghent, May 2011
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    “Ghent is a pleasant town to ramble through, with its threefold interests of history, architecture, and commerce, and in addition to this, it possesses the advantage of being a town where life and animation abound.”
    — from “Belgium and the Belgians” 1903 by Cyril Scudamore

    The vaulted ceilings of Gravensteen scream “I’m from the Middle Ages!” The heavy cold atmosphere is somewhat lightened by the high-ceilinged, vast spaces.

    Over time, Gravensteen evolved from defensive use to a luxury residence for the counts of Flanders and their courtiers. The castle remained a luxurious residence until the late 17th century, but when wealth moved from land ownership to that acquired through commerce, as a result of the Industrial Revolution, it meant that Gravensteen changed hands from the nobility to the bourgeoisie.

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    Gravensteen, Its Windows

    by von.otter Written Oct 3, 2012

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    Gravensteen, Its Windows, Ghent, May 2011
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    Gravensteen is an impressive and photogenic fortress.

    The castle was designed with defensive purposes in mind and incorporated design elements from castles of crusader in the Holy Land. These included 24 towers, which surround the castle, which would have all been painted in different, bright colors.

    The use of the opening in the form of a cross (see photos #1 - #3), directly above the main entrance gate, shows that Philippe d’Alsace, count of Flanders, had already taken part in the Second Crusade when the castle was built around 1177/1178.

    Opening hours in summer, 1.April to 31.October, are every day from 10.00 to 18.00; amd during the winter, from 1.November to 31.March, every day from 09.00 to 17.00. Tickets are available to 45 minutes before closing. Gravensteen is closed on 24, 25 and 31.December and on 1.January.

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    Gravensteen, Exterior, Part II

    by von.otter Written Oct 3, 2012

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    Gravensteen, Ghent, May 2011
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    In 1180 Philippe d’Alsace, count of Flanders modeled Gravensteen on those he had seen while on the Second Crusade. Previously, a wooden castle stood on the same location, thought to have been built in the ninth century. Gravensteen served as the seat of the counts of Flanders until it was abandoned in the 14th century. In the years following, the castle served as a courthouse, and then a prison. Houses were built against its walls and within the courtyard; stones from the walls were used to build other buildings. At one time it 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 restored it.

    Gravensteen is beautifully restored. It is partially surrounded by its Medieval dry moat. It can be visited throughout the year. Inside, is a museum devoted to the history of prison life, with a collection of Medieval instruments of torture.

    Opening hours in summer, 1.April to 31.October, are every day from 10.00 to 18.00; amd during the winter, from 1.November to 31.March, every day from 09.00 to 17.00. Tickets are available to 45 minutes before closing. Gravensteen is closed on 24, 25 and 31.December and on 1.January.

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  • Castle Gravensteen

    by macphile Written Aug 13, 2012
    Castle Gravensteen

    Castle Gravensteen, or the Castle of the Counts, is in the historical center of Gent and hard to miss. There's a fee to go in. The rooms are mostly empty, of course. If and when you make it up the narrow spiral staircase to the top (I was not a fan, LOL), there are great views all around the city.

    If I had a nitpick, it'd be with the kind of cheap wooden shields they've put up one or two places, just like the ones they sell in the gift shop for the kids...and a painted throne that everyone seems to want a picture of themselves in. It'd probably be better if they just left the rooms alone rather than put that stuff in.

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    Het Gravensteen

    by zadunajska8 Written Jan 2, 2012

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    Het Gravensteen
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    I think that this is (after the city's general charm), Gent's star attraction. The powerful castle of the Counts of Flanders is a must see for all first time visitors. The castle has everything you would expect of a medieval castle, it has a draw bridge, turrets and torture implements - what more could you ask for?

    The castle dates from the early 12th century, but much of the current structure is the result of later additions. Up until the 14th century it was Gent's main defensive stronghold and is a testament to the violent and unsettled history of this part of the world. From the 14th to the 17th centuries the castle became the city's prison and later it became a cotton mill before being restored and opened up to the public to enjoy.

    There is a small museum displaying items (mainly weapons) from the castle's past. The display is impressive because it seems so complete - broadswords, suits of armour, everything you think of as medieval warfare is here.

    On the upper levels is a display of some very gruesome torture devices which seemed to be what my friends enjoyed the most (disturbingly!). I found the views from the top of the tower to be well worth the climb and I'm sure it would have been even better if the weather had been clearer.

    Tickets are EUR 8 for adults.

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Comments (1)

  • breughel's Profile Photo
    Dec 17, 2012 at 10:59 AM

    Very interesting comments about the Gravensteen.
    It is one of the first medieval castles I visited (around 1950) and I felt as an archer behind the arrow slits.
    I ignored that the castle was an industrial complex in the 19th c. It is time for me to discover my own country!

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