Belfry of Ghent, the Tallest Belfry in Belgium

When I plan the itinerary of my travels, the priority for UNESCO World Heritage sites always figure high. Ghent figures in the UNESCO’s World Heritage list for its belfry and its associated buildings. This is one of the three medieval towers of Ghent and is reputed to be the tallest in Belgium. You can never miss this as it is visible from anywhere you stand in Ghent.

Functions of Belfry

The bell tower announced time, various warnings and served as the town treasury. You can enter the belfry and climb to top, unfortunately lack of time I had to skip this. The old bells and dragon weather vane are on display here. They even show you how it all works.

Watch Tower – Initially tower of St. Nicholas church was the first watch tower in Ghent and played the role till 1442. After that the watchmen moved to this belfry and stayed on till 1869. Outbreak of fire was the biggest fear in those days.

Keeping municipal Privileges – The dragon on top of belfry was believed to keep an eye on the city – symbolic guardian of the privileges.

Chime Bells – They were used both for religious purpose and also for regulating daily life. As more announcements had to be made, they introduced carillons. The carillon gradually expanded to 53 bells after the restoration in 1982. In 1993 a last bell, Robert, completed the carillon.

Cloth Hall at Belfry of Ghent

The rectangular hall attached to the belfry was the headquarters for cloth trade then. The city flourished, as cloth trading was a successful business then and it made the city rich. It was the venue for inspection, measurements and finally the transactions.

The gilded dragon at the top of the tower was brought from Bruges during the tower’s final stages of construction in 1380. The alarm bell Roland was installed in the Belfry in 1325. It was also used as the hourly bell from 1378. The hourly chime was preceded by warning signals on three smaller bells with various tones.

Clock on Belfry of Ghent

Statue of Mammelokker in Ghent

As you walk toward the Belfry, look up to see the unique statue of Mammelokker. A statue of a daughter suckling her father to save his life! This annex was the entrance and guard’s quarters of the city jail that occupied part of the old cloth hall from 1742 to 1902. The sculpture is poised high above the front doorway.
It depicts the Roman legend regarding a prisoner called Cimon. Cimon was sentenced to death by starvation, but survived and ultimately gained his freedom thanks to his daughter Pero, a wet nurse who secretly breastfed him during her visits. Her act of selflessness impressed officials and won her father’s release. The term ‘mammelokker’ translates as ‘breast sucker’.
Mammelokker of Belfry of Ghent
Saint Bavo Cathedral, Ghent, Belgium
Ghent, Belgium

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