An Eastward Homage, Day 22, Part I: Gravensteen, Hall of Counts

June 17, 2014- The Flemish are nothing, if not feisty.  A group of girls, who appeared to be 14-15 or so, boarded the bus to St. Pieters Platz, from St. Baaf’s, with the intention of getting off at Rabot, the area of Ghent’s eastern gate. Being preoccupied with teen matters, they noticed their stop, about 30 seconds after the driver had halted.  They rushed to the exit, were ignored by the driver and the bus resumed to a spot near my hotel.  The more vocal of the group called out an epithet, in Flemish, which evoked chuckles from some of the other passengers.  They got off at my stop, and took off, pell mell up the street.  I work a lot with teens, so the whole thing was very familiar.

This brings me to Gravensteen, my main focus of that Tuesday morning.  It is a well-preserved medieval castle, built to serve the Counts of Ghent, during the era of Flemish city-states.  It’s overriding concern, from the looks of things, was providing space for imprisonment and torture.  Having set the tone for an interesting visit, I promise not to over-present the Museum of Torture .(Yes, that’s on the bottom floor).

Here is the home of the counts, in its entirety.

SAM_1049

The balustrade and turrets are essentially as they were in the fourteenth century.

SAM_1051

These turrets were the homes of the counts, when they stayed in Ghent.

SAM_1099

Here are several views of the castle’s exterior.

SAM_1105

SAM_1107

SAM_1108

SAM_1109

SAM_1110

SAM_1168

Now, it’s time to go inside.  This meeting hall is now used for school groups.  On this day, there were two such groups in the castle.

SAM_1113

This was the Governor’s Residence.  There was no polished wood, until the 17th Century.

SAM_1115

I proceeded from there, to the Hall of Armor and Weaponry.  Below, is the closest thing a man had to a bullet-proof vest, in those days.

SAM_1117

Of course, knights got  to face combat in this.

SAM_1125

A couple of views of weapons reminds us how things really were, if one strayed too far from the norm.SAM_1118

SAM_1122

There was the hall of retribution, which featured the rack.

SAM_1149

SAM_1155

The iron mask was also a real instrument of control.SAM_1151

SAM_1153

The rooms were not as stuffy as one would think, though.  It was a good thing, as bathing wasn’t a top priority.

SAM_1159

Here is a scale model of the grounds.SAM_1146

The views from the balustrade made being in the counts’ good graces a nice thing.

SAM_1135

SAM_1138

SAM_1140

Being at the ground level wasn’t bad, either, as long as one was above the dungeon.

SAM_1166

SAM_1170

SAM_1172

On the other hand, if one WAS in the dungeon, this was his lot.  It was converted into a chapel, in the 18th Century.

SAM_1177

Special visitors stayed here.

SAM_1180

This gave me a good idea of life in a self-contained royal universe.  Being in a rather irreverent mood, and it being lunchtime, I dropped in at the Butchers’ Guild, in the Central Market, which reminded me a bit of Boston’s Fanueil Hall- with one big difference:

SAM_1191

It is refrigerated, and there were no flies.  I opted for ham with Gouda, on dark rye.

NEXT:  Navigating Brussels

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.