10 May 2013

Traversing the Ardennes: Ghent's Church Alley

At the very center of the Old Town of Ghent, there is this long plaza where there are three churches standing one after the other. Yes, I suppose back in the days, people needed more than one church. So there's St. Michael's Church at the west, then St. Nicholas' Church in the middle, and Saint Bavo Cathedral at the east. We entered all three churches, in that order. The first two churches were empty, so we were able to take pictures, but the last church just had a mass finishing, so people were exiting and while we were able to get inside, there were still plenty of people around that it was just awkward to take pictures.

The pictures above are all from St. Michael's Church. It was a bit cold outside, and snowing too, so it was nice to enter the church, just so that we can warm up a little bit. There were beggars, they didn't look Caucasian, in fact, they looked more like Gypsies that somehow ended in the middle of Belgium.

The second church we entered, St. Nicholas' Church, had some sort of religious art exhibit. The two pictures above are taken from that part of the building.

The pictures above are all taken from St. Nicholas' Church. There is a slightly different flavor between the two churches, but I just cannot describe it myself. After that, we went to the third church, but as there was a mass that just finished, like I said earlier, I didn't take photos. This church also had the very famous painting entitled "Adoration of the Mystic Lamb" but you have to pay to view it. And somehow, it felt like a tourist trap, not to mention I wasn't aware of this painting until I came here. Hence, I didn't go and view it.

Needless to say, after visiting 3 churches in a row, we felt churched out. So we didn't visit any more churches in Ghent.


  1. There are a lot of Roman gypsies in France and in Belgium.

    Interesting that you visit so many churches, for someone who likes to argue about religion ;-)

    1. Zhu,

      You're not the only one to make that observation! I guess I find religion fascinating for many reasons. Of course, there's the architectural aspect of things: churches have a higher chance of being preserved than other buildings, so churches provide me access to a culture's architectural heritage. There's also the anthropological aspect of it: I find human religious practices fascinating to observe. Case in point: I attended an Orthodox mass recently, just to see how it is done.

      That being said, I still think that religion is not for me. I guess, by observing people in a religious context, I constantly evaluate whether religion is for me or not. I suppose it's a constant test of my own beliefs.

    2. 3 churches in one plaza does seem like too much - unless Ghent is overpopulated with practicing Catholics. I know there's a waning fire of faith among newer generation of Europeans. When you say "I constantly evaluate whether religion is for me or not", I suppose there's still this nagging questions about belief in God within you?

    3. TNP,

      It's either they had too many Catholics, or the other churches were for other denominations (one's a Catholic Church, another's a Protestant church, that sort of thing). Unfortunately, I didn't check. Now, it's not necessarily a nagging question about belief in God per se, but more a nagging question of whether I need the therapeutic effects of religion or not. Religion, as I see it, is just a temporary answer to questions currently unanswerable by reason (for example, what happens to us when we die?). If I can go with my life not knowing that answer, then I won't need religion, but if I cannot, then I might need religion. It's more a question of faith than God's existence.