Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Jacob Van Artevelde on the Friday Market, Ghent

The Vrijdagmarkt (Friday Market) is the center of political life in medieval Ghent. It was in this square that the Flemish counts had to swear their observance of the freedoms accorded to the citizens of Ghent. The guilds also fought each other here and in 1477 two advisers and envoys of the stadholder (governess) Maria of Burgundy were executed.
It was on this Friday Market that king Edward II of England was proclaimed king of France in 1340 by the guilds under the command of Jacob Van Artevelde whose statue now occupies a central spot on the market. This proclamation was an attempt of Ghent to preserve the close trade relations with England, because for the wool production they depended heavily on the import of the raw material from across the channel. It gave the citizens of Ghent a reason to rebel against the king of France, from whom the fiefdom of Flanders actually depended. This revolution was led by  Jacob Van Artevelde, who then became a 'national' hero of Gent. However, not for long : he was murdered a few years later by the same citizens whose interests he had tried to protect.

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