This place housed the eldest parish church of Ghent. The first written texts go back to the 10th century. But, nothing remains of this church. During the 12th century, it was replaced by a Romanesque church with crucifix ground plan.
Slowly, this Romanesque church was replaced by the current, Gothic cathedral. The only remainder of this old church is part of the crypt.
Those rebuilding activities started at the beginning of the 14th century at the choir, that carries Scheldegothic properties. The crypt was made bigger (same size as the choir), making it Belgium's largest crypt.
The ambulatory and the radial chapels were built in the first half of the 15th century.
After this, they started the western tower. It is 82 meters high, and is a typical example of Brabantian gothic. Like the supporting towers on the corners, it has 8 corners. In 1602, the wooden spire was wrapped off during thunderstorm (never to return).
The nave and transept and the 8 side chapels followed the reconstruction. They are also examples for Brabantian gothic. The Stone from Doornik in the choir contrasts to the sandstone and bricks in the nave.
When the canons from the closed Sint-Baafsabbey in 1540 were attached to this Saint-John's church, the church became a chapter church. And when in 1561, the diocese of Ghent was established, it got promoted to Saint-Baafs' cathedral.
This cathedral is really full of art treasures.
The most famous is beyond doubt the 'Het Lam Gods', the masterpiece by the Flemish Primitives Hubert en Jan Van Eyck in 1432. It was painted occording the order by Judocus Vijdt, primary alderman in Ghent. The painting was started by Hubert Van Eyck, but he passed away in 1429. Jan Van Eyck, his brother, finished it. prabobly, most of the job was done by Hubert (Before 1430 Jan mainly was away for diplomatic missions). The painting was meant for the chapel for Judocus Vijdt, and his wife, Isabella Borluut. In 1934, 2 panels were stolen (one of the most famous art thefts in Belgium and maybe in the world), after which the retable was transferred to the baptismal chapel. For more information (in Dutch (but if you can read it, it's certainly worth while) http://fysica.telenet.be/lamgods/lam_gods.htm
Among the other pieces of great art, there is the rococo pulpit by Laurent Delvaux (1745).
In the choir, you find the mausoleums for some Ghentian bishops, and the painting 'Conversion of Saint-Bavo' by Pieter Paul Rubens
Harvey Dawn:'The most beautiful Cathedral I have ever seen! I am hoping to relocate to Gent from South Africa soon and it would be a dream come true...a privelage... if I could draw up the as built plans of the Cathedral on computer for your records. Being an Architect in a relatively new country...to see something like this....blew me away.'