Historical information

The oldest skyline of Ghent, printed by Pieter de Keysere in 1524.

Archaeological findings attest to human occupation of the Gent area from about 60,000 BC. Under Roman rule, a major settlement developed at the confluence of the Lys and Scheldt rivers. This agglomeration functioned as an economic centre for the Gent area till the fourth century.

On the west bank of the Scheldt, a portus developed from the ninth century onwards. By 1100, the town occupied a surface of eighty hectares within the sheltered environment of a ring of canalised rivers and newly dug canals, locally reinforced with walls and gates. Very soon, Gent became one of the most important centres of textile (woollen cloth) production in North-Western Europe.

By the mid-fourteenth century, the population had grown to about 60,000, which made Gent the most populated city in North-Western Europe after Paris and London. Civic buildings such as the belfry, the city hall, and the guild houses, erected in the heart of the city, stood as proud symbols of urban autonomy.


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