priory 'Het Pand'
A brief description.
‘Het Pand’ is an old Dominican priory located in the heart of the city of Gent on the banks of the river Leie.
In 1201 a hospital was established next to Saint Michael’s Chapel by Canon Utenhove. By 1225 the institute had become too small, and it was decided to construct a new one close to the Bijloke.
By that time the first Dominicans had arrived in Gent. By the agency of the then Counts of Flanders, Ferdinand of Portugal and Johanna of Constantinople, the Dominicans were allocated the old hospital to serve as their new settlement.
The year 1228 is considered to be the official date of establishment of the priory in Gent. The Dominicans were very actively constructing, and very soon they started building a fully fledged priory.
By 1240 the construction of a church was launched, and it was finished after 25 years. During the period 1325-75 the wing at the river Leie was constructed, with a sacristy, a priory, the refectory and the chapter hall, a brewery and a kitchen. All over the first floor was a spacious dormitory. The corridors of the courtyard date from the 15th century, and were constructed in different periods.
In 1473 Margaret of York, spouse of Charles the Bold, laid the first stone of the street or library wing, which was the most important extension of the priory.
In the beginning of the 16th century the construction of the transept or middle wing was started, using sandstone for the ground floor and bricks for the upper, and applying the Tudor arch.
The Iconoclastic Fury of 1556 brought hard times for the building. The Calvinists threw all the library books in the Leie. After a brief period of peace, the Calvinists took over the city again in 1578. The priory was used as a Calvinist university up till 1584.
In 1651 the old Utenhove hospital was being pulled down and the lay-brother Dominican Francis Romain (22.03.1647-07.01.1735) built a new hospice, infirmery and the arched roof of the refectory, 1683-1684.
The north-eastern part of the premise, with the priory and the pharmacy, was refurbished in 1780-81 in Louis XVI-style, using stucco and decorative painting.
In 1796, after the French Revolution, the priory was closed and sold in lots. The Dominicans were able to purchase the building with the help of an agent. They let some parts of the premise to get some income, but still they were forced to sell the property in 1823, with the consent of Pope Leo XII. The new civil owner, exploiting the rising need of housing occasioned by the speeding industrialisation of the city, introduced intermediate floors and partitions.
In this way, some two hundred rooms became available for those with little means, while the larger rooms such as the sacristy and the chapter hall were being used as depots for wine, and the refectory became a ‘Bazar’, a market of furniture.
In 1860, the church was demolished. Plans were being made to build a bridge across the river, and an avenue to connect the Voldersstraat and its prestigious Aula with the Coupure, where the better class citizens lived. These plans were never realised. In view of the World Exhibition of 1913, some restoration was done at the Leie front in 1912. The building, affected by age, had deteriorated in such a way that it became untenable after the Second World War. It was prone to be demolished.
But the Decree of the Regent of 20.07.1946 and the Royal Decree of 29.10.1956 put the building on the list of classified premises, and the then owner went searching for a potential buyer.
It was a surprise when the Board of Management of the University of Gent decided to acquire the building, but they were very much convinced of its value, and the transaction took place on January 25, 1963. It was decided to arrange ‘het Pand’ as the cultural centre of the university, and the Direction of the Buildings was entrusted with its renovation and restoration. Works were started in 1971 and accomplished in 1991.
Source: Philippe [email protected]
The buildings of the Dominican priory
‘Het Pand’, in Gent; today the cultural
and social centre of the University of Gent.
Belgium 1964, Mi 1364, 1365;
Sc B 764, B 765. FDC.
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