The 91-metre-high belfry of Ghent is one of three medieval towers that overlook the old city centre of Ghent, Belgium, the other two belonging to Saint Bavo Cathedral and Saint Nicholas' Church. Its height makes it the tallest belfry in existence. Through the centuries, it has served not only as a bell tower to announce the time and various warnings, but also as a fortified watchtower and town treasury.Construction of the tower began in 1313 to the design of master mason Jan van Haelst, whose plans are still preserved in a museum. After continuing intermittently through wars, plagues and political turmoil, the work reached completion in 1380. It was near the end of this period that the gilded dragon, brought from Bruges, assumed its place atop the tower. The uppermost parts of the building have been rebuilt several times, in part to accommodate the growing number of bells.The primary bell in the tower, Roland, was the one used by citizens to warn of an enemy approaching or a battle won. "Roland has become almost a person to the people of Belgium. He is a patriot, a hero, a leader in all rebellion against unrighteous authority."Upon conquering Ghent that had risen against, Charles V, Holy Roman Emperor ordered the removal of Roland. Henry Wadsworth Longfellow referred to Roland in one of his poems:Till the bell of Ghent responded

o'er lagoon and dike of sand,
I am Roland! I am Roland! there is victory in the land!

The bell is also the primary character in the city's anthem, in which the bell calls fire or calls upon the townspeople and the heroes to fight for the land.The belfry of Ghent, together with its attached buildings, belongs to the set of belfries of Belgium and France inscribed on UNESCO's World Heritage List.
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Categories & Keywords
Category:Travel and Places
Subcategory:Europe
Subcategory Detail:Belgium
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