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Ghent, East Flanders
Gent Gravensteen R01.jpg
The Gravensteen, seen from the south-east
Gravensteen is located in Belgium
Coordinates51°03′26″N 3°43′14″E / 51.057222°N 3.720556°E / 51.057222; 3.720556
Site information
OwnerCity of Ghent
Site history
MaterialsSandstone, Tournai limestone
Garrison information
OccupantsCounts of Flanders (1180–1353)

The Gravensteen (Dutch; literally "Castle of the Counts") is a medieval castle at Ghent, East Flanders in Belgium. The current castle dates to 1180 and was the residence of the Counts of Flanders until 1353. It was subsequently re-purposed as a court, prison, mint, and even as a cotton factory. It was restored over 1893–1903 and is now a museum and a major landmark in the city.


The origins of the Gravensteen date to the reign of Arnulf I (890–965).[1] The site, which sat between two branches of the Lys river, was first fortified around 1000, initially in wood and later in stone. This was soon transformed into a motte-and-bailey castle which burnt down in around 1176.[1]

The current castle dates to 1180 and was built by Philip of Alsace (1143–1191) on the site of the older fortification.[1] It may have been inspired by crusader castles witnessed by Philip during the Second Crusade. As well a protective citadel, the Gravensteen was intended to intimidate the burghers of Ghent who often challenged the Counts' authority. It incorporates a large central donjon, a residence and various smaller buildings. These are surrounded by a fortified, oval-shaped enceinte lined with 24 small échauguettes. It also has a sizeable moat, fed with water from the Lys.

From 1180 until 1353, the Gravensteen was the residence of the Counts of Flanders. The decision to leave was taken by Louis of Male (1330–1384) who transferred the court to the nearby Hof ten Walle.[1]

Subsequent history[edit]

After ceasing to be the residence of the Counts of Flanders, the castle entered a decline. It was used as a court and prison until the 18th century. From 1353 to 1491, it was the site of Ghent's mint. It was later sold to an industrialist who converted the buildings into a cotton factory and various small buildings were constructed on top of the Medieval remains. At one point in time, it was scheduled for demolition. After gradually buying up the castle, the city of Ghent heavily restored the castle in a romanticising Gothic style between 1893 and 1907.[1] The first major restorations started under the direction of architect Joseph de Waele. In the footsteps of the great French restorer Eugène Viollet-le-Duc (1814–1879) he opted for a romantic gothic interpretation inspired by the era of Count Philip of Alsace. However, many details of the present-day Gravensteen, such as the flat roofs and the windows of the eastern outbuilding are not thought to be historically accurate.

The castle was later the centre piece of the Ghent World Fair of 1913 and remains open to the public.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d e "History". Gravensteen. Historische Huizen Gent. Retrieved 6 September 2018.

External links[edit]