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The Town Hall is an early example of what excessive taxes can do to a city. In 1516, Antwerp's Domien de Waghemakere and Mechelen's Rombout Keldermans, two prominent architects, were called in to build a town hall that would put all others to shame. However, before the building could be completed, Emperor Charles V imposed new taxes that drained the city's resources. The architecture thus reflects the changing fortunes of Gent: the side built in 1518–60 and facing Hoogpoort is in Flamboyant Gothic style; when work resumed in 1580, during the short-lived Protestant Republic, the Botermarkt side was completed in a stricter and more economical Renaissance style; and later additions include Baroque and rococo features. The tower on the corner of Hoogpoort and Botermarkt has a balcony specifically built for making announcements and proclamations; lacelike tracery embellishes the exterior. This civic landmark is not usually open to the public, but you can arrange a tour through the Gidsenbond van Genten or see it on a guided tour offered through the city's tourist office. Look for the glorious Gothic staircase, the throne room, and the spectacularly decorated halls—the Pacificatiezaal hall is where the Pacification Treaty of Gent between Catholics and Protestants was signed.
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