This magnificent sight on Sint-Baafsplein in Ghent is a proud old lady: don’t just walk past her on your city trip. St Bavo’s Cathedral is the oldest parish church in the lively heart of Ghent. It stands on the site of a 10th century church and a 12th century Romanesque church. The latter was dedicated to St John the Baptist. In the Middle Ages, Ghent was a rich and powerful city that had the means to commission ever-larger and more opulent churches. So the Church of St John the Baptist was converted during the 15th and 16th centuries into the imposing Gothic St Bavo’s Cathedral.

A history of rebellion: from church to cathedral

Looking for a weekend getaway that is just that little bit different? Do you like to explore off the beaten track? Welcome to Ghent, the city of rebels! St Bavo’s Cathedral literally carries Ghent’s rebellious history in its very stones. In the crypt, the Romanesque style can still be seen in the central nave. In the 15th century, it was decided that the Romanesque structure would be replaced with a larger Gothic church that was completed in 1559. In 1540, the church became the seat of the Chapter of St Bavo, and St Bavo became the patron saint of the church. Later, in 1559, the church was converted into the cathedral of the Bishops of Ghent.

Bursting with riches: Ghent’s art treasures

St Bavo’s Cathedral has a rich history and it is also filled with art treasures that make many an art-lover’s mouth water: from the baroque high altar in white, black and red flamed marble, the Rococo pulpit in oak, gilded wood and marble, to a masterpiece by Rubens: Saint Bavo enters the Convent at Ghent, and the Calvary Triptych by Justus van Gent, the Gothic chandelier/sanctuary lamp, the opulent tombs of the Bishops of Ghent – and of course the world-famous Mystic Lamb.

Admire the divine glow of ‘The Adoration of the Mystic Lamb’ by the Van Eyck brothers in St Bavo’s Cathedral. Read all about this famous work by the Flemish Primitives. Do you want to visit the Mystic Lamb? Find out the opening hours of the chapel where the Mystic Lamb is on display at St Bavo’s Cathedral.

Fascinating fact about the Mystic Lamb: So that you have a chance to admire all the panels of the Ghent Altarpiece in all their glory, the outer panels of this masterpiece by Van Eyck are folded inwards every day between 12.00 and 13.00. Admission tickets for this chapel are sold until about 15 minutes before closing time.

Souvenirs galore: the cathedral shop

Of course you want memories to take home with you that are as beautiful as the cathedral itself. Pop into the cathedral gift shop for postcards, art books, posters etc.

‘Festive’ view of the city of Ghent

You can only go up the tower of St Bavo’s Cathedral during the Ghent Festivities. Negotiate the stairs and enjoy the magnificent view of this unique party for the people in the heart of Ghent. At other times of the year, you can enjoy the most beautiful view of Ghent from directly beneath the golden dragon, Ghent’s mascot, on the Belfry tower opposite. From there you can continue exploring the heart of Ghent. Anything goes.