from the first settlements to a modern city the story of ghent

ghent, a city of all times

Ghent is a city of many faces – it’s a historical city, university city, port city and city of culture. Its appearance has not been defined by any one dominant period or rule. Ghent is a city of all times. And it’s still constantly in motion.

No single period or power left its stamp on Ghent. Ghent is a city of all times, a university city, a seaport, a historical city and a city of culture.

STAM is an instrument for deciphering the city layer by layer and making it legible. STAM reveals the fabric of the old city by dissecting the accumulated years of history. It also holds up to view the chalk lines of future developments.

The introductory room is the starting point for the chronological trail. The visitor can form a picture of present-day Ghent from an aerial photo and a model of the city centre.

views of ghent

Four views of Ghent have been digitalized, enabling you to travel through time and the evolving city.

The Panoramic View of Ghent dates from 1534 and is the oldest painted picture of the city. The second map dates from 1641. It was made by Henricus Hondius and is normally kept in the university library. The 1912 Ground Plan of Ghent derives from the archives of the Department of Roads, Bridges and Waterways. The fourth 'map' is an aerial photograph of modern-day Ghent.

growing city

Although the main point here is the earliest core of the city, a great many relics also indicate the presence of man in the period prior to this. Stone sculptures and illuminated manuscripts illustrate the importance and vigour of the rival abbeys of St Bavo and St Peter.

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In the course of the fifteenth century great changes were seen in Ghent and the other Flemish towns. For now they were confronted with the ambitious dukes of Burgundy, who wanted a strong, centralized state. Ghent, the great defender of municipal independence and liberty, had much to bear.

chastened city, 1600-1800

Paintings, procession torches, engravings and suchlike are reminders of the great festivities organised for countless events such as the joyous entry of monarchs into the city. The relative political calm and the return of economic growth after turbulent times stimulated building activity.

Painting by François Duchatel, 'Inauguration of Charles II, King of Spain, as Count of Flanders 1666'. An app in the museum next to this painting tells you more about Joyful Entries. Een applicatie in het museum naast dit schilderij vertelt je meer over Blijde intredes

industriestad, 1800-1950

Onder invloed van de industrialisering barstte de middeleeuwse stad definitief uit haar voegen. De stadspoorten verdwenen en buiten de (voormalige) stadsomwallingen groeiden diverse nieuwe wijken. Grootschalige infrastructuurwerken moesten die evolutie in goede banen leiden. Ook onderging het historische centrum een grondige transformatie.

Towards the end of the nineteenth century,the Liberal city council decided to tackle the uncontrolled proliferation of factories and houses. Inner-city slums were cleared and, when the heavily polluted Scheldt flooded the surrounding area several times in the 1880s, the council had the Reep covered over.

1913: wereldtentoonstelling

The 1913 World Fair in Ghent was held in the Sint-Pieters-Aalst district, behind Ghent Sint-Pieters station, and in Citadelpark. The exhibition halls were temporary constructions and little of them has survived. The area was divided into lots and turned into a residential district. STAM developed a virtual model which shows what it looked like in 1913.

1934: the theft of ‘the just judges’ panel

One theme - bigger and even more famous than Ghent itself - is singled out for special attention: ‘The Adoration of the Mystic Lamb’. The focus is on the theft of ‘The Just Judges’ panel. The hunt for the missing panel is still on and introduces a light-hearted note.


the population of ghent has become increasingly diverse since the 1960s.

The exodus from the city was chiefly the result of urban decay: large parts of Ghent were dominated in the 1950s and 60s by factories and run-down residential districts. The focus on urban regeneration intensified in the late 1970s, although it was only in the 1990s that the results began to show. A 1997 mobility plan that largely banished cars from the city centre also encouraged a revival.

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regional centre

The city has developed in recent decades into a regional centre for services, education, health, culture and recreation. And with over 60,000 students in university and higher education, Ghent is the leading Flemish city of learning. The presence of the university and colleges encourages the knowledge industry and adds creative impetus to the entire cultural sector.

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You can literally contribute a brick to 'Ghent in LEGO' and help build the city you always dreamt of near Ghent’s four most famous towers: the tower of the Church of St Nicholas, the Belfry, the Book Tower and the tower of St Bavo’s Cathedral.
from the first settlements to a modern city the story of ghent