Friday, July 03, 2009

Ghent or Is It Gand?

Today we took the train from Bruges (Brugge in Dutch) to Ghent or Gent (Gand in Dutch). Confused yet? It doesn't really matter as long as you are consistent and not a native of Belgium. If you are Belgian, then the spelling maymtters, a lot. But I won't get into that in this post.

The main purpose of our trip was to see the Adoration of the Lamb altarpiece created by Hubert and Jan van Eyck. This is one of the landmarks in art history and is just spectacular. It is still in the Vyd Chapel in the Cathedral of Bavo, where the patron had it placed when it was completed by Jan van Eyck in 1432. We spent quite a lot of time looking at the painting and discussing the possible meaning of the iconography, although we needed to buy the guide to understand some of it. But you don't need a guide to appreciate the quality of the painting. Or maybe you do. I was surprised at the number of people who just looked into the chapel, or stayed a few minutes, or didn't know that they should close the side panels so that they could see the pairings on the back. Of course I showed that to people if they seemed at all interested.

There were a few other things in the cathedral that were interesting. There some nice manuscripts and early printed books but no incunabula. There was a Rubens if you like him (not my taste), and a good Justus of Bruges in the crypt as well as some medieval wall paintings. The historic center of Ghent has a beautiful belltower, an interesting town hall that is flamoyant gothic on one side and Renaissance on the other but we could not see the interior because there was a wedding scheduled. The streets were being torn up and the weather was overcast, cold and windy, so we were happy to get back to Bruges, alth the St. Nicholas Church was interesting and some unusual features like having the pulpit in the back.

One of my Bruges projects has been trying to see where the merchants actually had their warehouses. I didn't look at the German one but I did see all the Italian ones and the Porters' Lodge, where all the rich merchant hung out in a kind of club. All this is near where we are staying. So I am beginning to create a map of fifteenth-century Bruges in my mind that will help in my writing.

We also stopped at The Chocolate Linr, which is a famous chocolate place in Bruges. Dominique Personne, the owner, is known for his revolutionary approach to chocolate. I braved my chocolate allergy and had a piece of very dark chocolate with chocolate ganache and ginger filling. It was excellent, although not revolutionary. There were more exotic combinations, but I picked what I like. The we just hung out in the main square until dinnertime talking and watching people, had dinner and gelato and came back to finish writing and pack. We need to go to bed early since we have an early train to Brussels then take Ryan Air to Treviso and the bus to Venice so we can meet our landlord and get settled in our apartment. Classes start on Monday.

1 comment:

  1. Well, actually it's Gent in Dutch.
    Gand is French... :)