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From a square of death to a square of birth

In the city of Ghent, there is a square that used to be known as the square of death. In the Middle Ages and even long after, all kinds of executions were carried out on the market square. The square is just in front of the centuries-old Castle of the Counts. and has the name Veerleplein.

From 1407 until the end of the 18th century, the square served as a court for criminals. It was the only place of punishment in Flanders for counterfeiters. The fact that counterfeiters were punished here had to do with the location of the count's mint in nearby Gravensteen. The counterfeiters were thrown into a cauldron of boiling oil or boiling water. On March 17, 1540, nine of the leaders of the Ghent Revolt were beheaded here by order of Emperor Charles V. Five more followed on May 4. The same fate was suffered here, by Jan van Hembyse, one of the leaders of the Ghent Republic in 1584.

Picture by Mith

Now that Ghent is mainly a tourist city and executions are a thing of the past, the city council wants to upgrade the square and give it a new impetus. Therefore the former court of death is unformed into a square of birth, How do they do that?

In 2011, the city of Ghent placed the artwork "Ai Nati Oggi" (To whom is born today) by Alberto Garutti. The artwork is integrated into the lanterns. These are connected to all maternity hospitals in the city (AZ Sint-Lucas, AZ Jan Palfijn, AZ Maria Middelares, UZ). Each time a child is born in one of these hospitals, a button is pressed and the lanterns flash slowly.


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