The cobbled square to the west of the Belfort is Emile Braunplein, named after the reforming burgomaster who cleared many of the city’s slums at the beginning of the twentieth century. The west edge of the square abuts St-Niklaaskerk, an architectural hybrid dating from the thirteenth century that was once the favourite church of the city’s principal merchants. It’s the shape and structure that pleases most, especially the arching buttresses and pencil-thin turrets which, in a classic example of the early Scheldt Gothic style, elegantly attenuate the lines of the nave. Inside, many of the original Baroque furnishings and fittings have been removed and the windows un-bricked, thus returning the church to its early appearance. One feature you can’t miss is the giant-sized Baroque high altar with its mammoth representation of God the Father glowering down its back, blowing the hot wind of the Last Judgement from his mouth and surrounded by a flock of cherubic angels. The church is sometimes used for temporary art exhibitions, which can attract an admission fee.

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