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Castle Gravensteen in Ghent

The Gravensteen castle or the castle of the count is a medieval build castle in Ghent. It is the only medieval castle in Flanders defensive system that remained virtually untouched to this day. The counts of Flanders had built castles in all the major cities of the county because they had to maintain law and order, they also continuously had to move from one castle to the other. The castle of Ghent is the only one that survived the centuries more or less intact.

Picture by Pixabay

Archeological excavations have proven that three fortified castles constructed in wood must have stood on the site of today's Gravensteen. The first fortifications on this site were probably built by Baldwin I in 807. The fortifications were intended for protection the counts against raids and sieges. At the beginning of the 10th century Count Arnulf, I ordered a full rebuild castle.

All the structures were made of wood and arranged around a large building, built on a fortified hill. In 1128 there was the first serious siege. During that siege, the castle was seriously damaged. In the middle of the 12th century, under the leadership of Count Robert I the Frisian, the fortress was once again thoroughly rebuilt.  A three-story high stone tower, called the Donjon, replaced the wooden buildings. It had three ceremonial halls, a monumental stone staircase, stoves, and latrines, It was a very luxurious building at that time. Later the castle was damaged by a fire in 1176.

Picture by Pixabay

The Gravensteen as it is today was built by Count Philip I of Alsace in 1180. the main hall was expanded and the castle was surrounded by a wall with 24 towers. also, a moat was added to protect it.

In 1980 the Gravensteen celebrated its 800th anniversary. The castle has been renovated enough to allow people to walk through it and climb to the top of the donjon. It is still partly surrounded by a moat. Inside the castle, there is a museum with various torture devices and a guillotine that were historically used in Ghent.

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