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 visitors' centreat St Bavo’s Cathedral.

Visitors’ centre

In the visitors' centre, you can admire the Ghent Altarpiece and authentic art treasures.

The upper register of the inner panels of the Ghent Altarpiece is currently restored in the Museum of Fine Arts in Ghent. You can see the restorers live at work in their workshop from Tuesdays to Fridays.  

Visit the Ghent Altarpiece - online ticketing

Prefer not to wait in line at the ticket booth? Want to be sure you can discover the Ghent Altarpiece when you want to? Then book your tickets online in advance and enjoy your visit to the fullest.

Book your tickets here

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.

Tactile scale model

A bronze tactile scale model has been installed to the left of the cathedral’s main entrance. This miniature cathedral is 150 times smaller than the real one. It enables blind or visually impaired people to have an idea of what the building looks like. The braille text tells the history of the cathedral. 

Monumentale Kerken Gent

The non-profit organisation Monumental Churches of Ghent tries to make the patrimony and cultural heritage of Ghent's central churches accessible to the general public.

Find out more about how the non-profit organisation MKG works

Monumentale Kerken Gent

Ghent's horizon is characterised by its many churches and their towers. This brochure takes you on a tour of Ghent's nine Monumental Churches. You will discover more about their rich history and the many works of art they house.

Available in 5 different languages: Dutch, French, English, German and Spanish

A paper version of this brochure is also available in the tourist office.

The information continues beneath the illustrations.