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  GHENT: The St. Nicholas Church
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Right in the heart of Ghent stands the Saint Nicholas church, one of the oldest churches of the city. An older version stood here until the 12th century until it burned down in 1120 and 1176. Because of their growing wealth the citizens of Ghent were able to construct a new and much bigger church. The present-day version was finished between 1220 and 1250. 

The style of Saint Nicholas is the so-called 'Scheldt Gothic Style'. It differs from the later Brabantine Gothic Style because of the use of the blue-gray stone from the Tournai area. The city of Tournai with its stone quarries in southern Belgium lies at the river Scheldt. During the Middle-Ages stone from Tournai could be transported with ships to other cities at the river, such as Ghent. Also very typical for this style is that the main tower stands above the crossing of the church, instead of above the western entrance, the latter being more typical for the Brabantine Gothic Style.

The church belonged to the powerful traders of Ghent, who did their business in the nearby harbor. Saint Nicholas is also the patron saint of the traders. In the 14th century the church had to be enlarged to prevent the tower from collapsing. The tower was used as belfry or watchtower until the construction of the real belfry was finished.

The church did not survive the centuries without damages. In 1566, during the Iconoclasm, a group of Protestants destroyed all the gothic decorations because they no longer believed in worshipping statues and paintings. Numerous churches in the Low Countries underwent the same fate. During the French Revolution, when the country was attacked by the French revolutionary army, the Saint Nicholas church was degraded and used as a horses stable. After many discussions the restoration of the church was started in the 19th century. The building looked like a ruin and nobody was sure what the church originally had looked like. This reconstruction still continues today. In the meantime, the Saint Nicholas church can again be counted to the most impressive monuments of Gent.

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