Ghent, a cultural cocktail on a human scale
Those who see the Ghent Altarpiece for the first time are at a loss for words. This was the case in 1432 and it still is today. From the curls on the heads of the singing angels to the reflection of sunlight in a jar of water: Van Eyck painted with an almost divine eye for detail. You don’t need to be an expert to enjoy Van Eyck’s art. We Ghentians are no experts either.
And yet we cannot stop talking about it. One of the reasons is that the painting was at the centre of a centuries-long soap opera. Hidden, stolen, cut in half, nearly burnt … It is a small miracle that the altarpiece is still in our cathedral today.
What’s more: after nearly six centuries, it has been restored to its former glory. After many years of restoration, the painting can once again be admired in its original colours. The art world was astounded — and so were we. Tip: stay a little longer, and discover it with us.
The Ghent Altarpiece in the cathedral
Visit the Ghent Altarpiece
Of course, it all starts with the painting. It is on display where it belongs: at St Bavo's Cathedral in Ghent. It is advisable to book tickets in advance if you want to be sure of a place. The AR tour of the medieval crypt makes history visible, and thanks the new (fully accessible) visitor centre, you can admire the work in all its glory. A must-see if there ever was one!
Extra tip: with the CityCard Gent you enjoy a nice discount!
Van Eyck in Ghent: street art and walking maps
Outside the St Bavo's Cathedral, the fifteenth century has left plenty of traces throughout our city. A walking map allows you to discover these traces, ranging from a rare Gothic courtyard to the ruins of St Bavo's Abbey. Nothing to see but history? Absolutely not. Jan Van Eyck’s legacy has always lived on in Ghent. It has been a source of inspiration for many street artists whose works are sometimes grand, sometimes subtle, but always with a new message.
A guide can tell you more
No time to read about the Ghent Altarpiece? Still want to know more about it than other tourists — and let’s be honest, more than most Ghentians? Then go on a guided tour. You can go on a tour of St Bavo's Cathedral or of the city, discovering the world as Van Eyck must have experienced it in the fifteenth century as well as his enduring legacy.
The Ghent Altarpiece: eternal mystery
Everything about the Ghent Altarpiece is steeped in mystery. Even the basic information is scarce. Who painted it? Was it Jan and Hubert Van Eyck … or just Jan? Who is depicted? We are not sure about half of the characters. What does it mean? You can fill a library with everything that has been written on this topic. What is certain is that Jan Van Eyck caused a major shift in the art world of the fifteenth century, and his legacy can still be seen today.
Jan Van Eyck’s painting techniques
Smakeleyck: eating like Van Eyck
A chunk of bread and a tankard of ale? There is so much more to medieval food. The gastronomy of the late Middle Ages was incredibly rich and no-one knew how to throw a lavish banquet better than the Dukes of Burgundy. Thanks to historical research and a study of the plants depicted in the Ghent Altarpiece, Flemish foodie Olly Ceulenaere was able to reconstruct a few authentic recipes. Smakeleyck.