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

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28 Responses

  1. ashok says:

    quite an impressive spire…

  2. ladyfi says:

    Wonderful lacy architecture!

  3. Carver says:

    Wonderful shots of the belfry.

  4. Sylvia K says:

    Magnificent building and the belfry is awesome! I love the golden dragon! Thanks as always, Indrani, for the history!! It makes your captures even more wonderful!

  5. dr.antony says:

    History sleeps here!

  6. Jim says:

    Such amazing architecture.

  7. Anneke says:

    beautiful photo,s from great architecture.
    greetings from ann

  8. Linnea says:

    I'm a big fan of Unesco heritage sites too. The intricate details in the buildings make up for the gray skies!

  9. Thank you for showing us

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  10. Wow. Amazing,impressive and inspiring architecture !

  11. Without reading the narration one would be tempted to consider the building as the Church. Quite imposing belfry. Thanks for sharing.

  12. Leovi says:

    Yes, very nice photos, great frames.

  13. Gary says:

    Great series!! Boom & Gary of the Vermilon River, Canada.

  14. Such beautiful architecture.

  15. Hilary says:

    The beautiful architecture you visit always thrills me. You travel to some wonderful lands, Indrani. I'm so glad you share.

  16. Rajesh says:

    Wonderful architecture.

  17. I am trying to imagine what it must have been like to create that. To work with the images that led to that building.

  18. Reader Wil says:

    What a magnificent piece of architecture this belfry is. I didn't know that it was not attached to a church. Thanks for this information. Have a great weekend!

  19. Alouise says:

    Wow that’s a really impressive belfry. I love this details that go into things like this. I’m hoping to visit Brussels soon and I think a trip to Ghent will be in the works now as well.

  20. Kavey says:

    Yes, always worth checknig out any UNESCO world heritage sites wherever you are visiting. Lovely photos.

  21. Anne says:

    Ghent is just one of the amazing towns in this area that look like something straight out of a fairytale. I didn’t realise the spire was the tallest but it’s certainly big.

  22. ankita says:

    Thats a great post and some wonderful photos too! I love visiting heritage sites, they have a certain charm to them.

  23. Jennifer says:

    We didn’t have time to climb the tower when we were in Ghent. I wish we had as the best views are always from up above. It’s definitely a beautiful city though and well worth a visit.

  24. Fascinating spot. I too love UNESCO heritage sites and have very often gone a bit out of my way to see them on my travels.

  25. Vicki Louise says:

    I had no idea the Belfry was a UNESCO Heritage Site. It’s so impressive – the architecture is incredible and the view from the top must be magical!

  26. Elisa says:

    I knew about the use of Belfries but I was impressed about Cimon’s story. I would like to visit Ghent, a shame I have not done it yet, living so close to Belgium

  27. I had read about this earlier somewhere and was fascinated! Great to know about Belfry as a first-hand experience.

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