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St. Nicholas' Church
St. Nicholas' Church ca. 1890-1900

The St. Nicholas' Church (Dutch: Sint-Niklaaskerk) is one of the oldest and most prominent landmarks in Ghent, Belgium. Begun in the early 1200s as a replacement for an earlier Romanesque church, construction continued through the rest of the century in the local Scheldt Gothic style (named after the nearby river). Typical of this style is the use of blue-gray stone from the Tournai area, the single large tower above the crossing, and the slender turrets at the building's corners.

Built in the old trade center of Ghent next to the bustling Korenmarkt (Corn Market), St. Nicholas' Church was popular with the guilds whose members carried out their business nearby. The guilds had their own chapels which were added to the sides of the church in the 14th and 15th centuries.

The central tower, which was funded in part by the city, served as an observation post and carried the town bells until the neighboring belfry of Ghent was built. These two towers, along with the Saint Bavo Cathedral, still define the famous medieval skyline of the city center.

One of the showpieces of the church is its organ, produced by the famous French organ builder Aristide Cavaillé-Coll.

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Restoration

The building gradually deteriorated through the centuries, to a degree that threatened its stability. Cracks were overlaid with plaster, windows were bricked up to reinforce the walls, and in the 18th century, little houses and shops were built up against the dilapidated facades. Interest in the church as a historical monument arose around 1840, and at the turn of the century major restoration plans emerged. The houses alongside the church were demolished and much renovation work has been carried out since then.

Helicopter crash

On 21 April 2005, a remote-controlled mini-helicopter was blown by a wind gust against the side of the church. The helicopter, which had been filming scenery for a promotional film about the city, crashed down on the pavement about five meters from the side entrance. There was no serious damage to the building.

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Coordinates: 51°03′14″N 3°43′22″E / 51.05389°N 3.72278°E / 51.05389; 3.72278

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