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This 300-foot belfry tower symbolizes the power of the guilds and was constructed in 1314 to serve as Gent's watchtower. Since 1377, the structure has been crowned with a gilded copper weather vane shaped into a dragon, the city's symbol of freedom. (The current stone spire was added in 1913.) Inside the Belfort, documents listing the privileges of the city (known as its secreets) were once kept behind triple-locked doors and guarded by lookouts, who toured the battlements hourly to prove they weren't sleeping. When danger approached, bells were rung—until Charles V had them removed. Now a 53-bell carillon, claimed by experts to be one of the best in the world, is set on the top floor. One of the original bells, the Triumphanta, cast in 1660 and badly cracked in 1914, rests in a garden at the foot of the tower. The largest original bell, Klokke Roeland, is still sung about in Gent's anthem of the same name. The view from the tower is one of the city's highlights. The steep-roofed wood and glass pavilion below that was added to Emile Braun Plein in 2012 is intended to reflect the roofs of the Stadhuis, but has sharply divided local opinion. Note that you need a guide to visit the carillon; guides are available afternoons between May and September.
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