The Castle of the Counts in Ghent

Het Gravensteen or the Castle of the Counts is a medieval fortress in the heart of the city with narrow tower stairs, strong battlements, rooms that appeal to the imagination, and a magnificent view over the city of Ghent. The castle owes its existence to the counts of Flanders. In the ninth century, Count Baldwin II built fortifications in all strategic places in his empire to protect himself against attacks from outside. His son, Arnulf I, continues his work. The Castle of the Counts is still one of the remaining buildings of that time.

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The Gravensteen has never been a full-time residence for the counts. They only stayed there when the count's royal household is in Ghent. The castle was actually mainly the administrative center of the county. The count's administration was located there and they administered justice. Besides a court of law, the Castle of the Counts was also a prison. The semi-underground cells that are housed in it are damp and drafty and very cold, especially in winter. Torture also happened. Although the legal procedure of torture was no longer applied in the early Middle Ages, it was reintroduced at the time of the Council of Flanders. From the fifteenth century, torture such as scourging and stretching of limbs is again used.

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After an eventful history of several centuries and functions, the city wanted to demolish the dilapidated building and sell the land as building land. Fortunately, there is no interest in the project and the Ghent city council, together with the Belgian state, started buying back the site from various owners. During the subsequent restoration, architect Jozef De Waele opted for a romantic interpretation of the castle of Philip of Alsace. The Castle of the Counts has been open to the public since 1907. The World Exhibition in 1913 marked the beginning of its reputation as the largest tourist attraction in Ghent for the Castle of the Counts.