Thursday Doors: Flaunting Riches

Who doesn’t love a great castle tour?

Maybe it’s a North American thing to be obsessed with castles. The closest we come to it here are the “castle wannabes” built by the obscenely rich.

But wait … isn’t that exactly what happened in the centuries past? The obscenely rich, wanting to flaunt their wealth, built the great castles we admire today.

Take Gravensteen in Ghent, Belgium for example.

When we discovered there was a medieval castle an hour’s drive from Bruges, we quickly added it to our list of must-do activities. The forecast of rain did not dampen our enthusiasm for the tour ahead.

It was built in 1180 by Philip of Alsace, the Count of Flanders, as a deliberate show of power and wealth with the intention of intimidating those who opposed him.

Gravensteen remained the family residence until 1353 after which it went through a number of different lives – including that of a courthouse and prison. It quickly developed a reputation as a place used for torture and other atrocities which eventually led it to being slated for demolition in the late 1800s.

It was saved from the wrecking ball and restored for its architectural and historical significance, however some of the details of the current castle are not considered to be historically accurate.

Regardless, it’s an impressive place to visit.

Well over a hundred years later, the restoration of Gravensteen continues to be a work in progress.

We arrived shortly after the castle opened to the public for the day, which turned out to be good planning on our part. The site was relatively quiet and we were able to navigate around the building easily with minimal crowds. The same can’t be said for the long lines of students waiting at the entrance as we were leaving.

I do love a door-within-a-door, especially when it’s beautifully ornate.

Which brings me to the tour itself.

It was a self-guided tour but this one was in the form of a fairy-tale like story told about the Count and life at the castle. I can’t vouch for how much was truth or fiction, but the narration was often laugh-out-loud funny … at least to me and my somewhat odd sense of humour.

Two for one.

I’m sure the story was written for adult audiences. It was filled with violence and sexual innuendo which left both Gilles and I wondering if children were given the same version of this story!!

By North American standards, the story we listened to simply would not fly on a school outing. Parents would be frothing at the mouth with outrage.

A window with doors!

But the doors!!

It was like someone predicted that someday there would be a group of international door aficionados who would appreciate all the interesting and unusual doors throughout the castle.

I realized only afterward that there was a small door above this door.

There were so many doors to choose from that I decided to break it up into two posts, so stay tuned for more from Gravensteen.

This post has been brought to you this week by Thursday Doors with a side helping of implied violence and sexual impropriety. No doors were harmed in the making of this post.

Thursday Doors is hosted by Norm Frampton from Norm 2.0.

88 comments

  1. The castles are amazing. I cannot imagine the manpower and materials required to build them. It is interesting how they withstand the test of time. You have brought to my attention the doors within a door in past posts. Thankful, no doors harmed:) Always interesting posts and I love the photos, Joanne.

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    • I agree that the sourcing of materials and labour required to build these huge structures must have been monumental. It’s a testament to have much money these people must have had compared to their more modest neighbours!

      It’s always a pleasure to have you visit, Erica πŸ™‚

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Oh my, oh my! I love it when I get this feeling that some doors were left somewhere for door lovers to find them. That first green beauty is a classic! ❀ ❀ ❀ And I laughed just imagining you giggling at the story. πŸ˜€

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    • It’s not very often you find a building that has many different styles of doors. It made this place rather special for a door enthusiast πŸ™‚

      It can be a little awkward on these tours when everyone is wearing headphones and you’re the only one who bursts out laughing πŸ˜†

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Wow, those doors are pretty imposing! For some reason, when I was reading your post I kept thinking how difficult it would be escape through those locked doors. Maybe I should be thinking about how well the doors protected the owners from outsiders, no?

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  4. You did a great job of photographing this huge castle, Joanne. The doors are indeed spectacular and that window with doors is especially unique. Thanks for taking us on the tour with you.

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  5. Ha, Joanne, as a former teacher I can tell you we would need to edit part of that field trip! The doors are beautiful and the castle IS very impressive. As North Americans, we do seem to obsess with them…how many wealthy folks have imported parts of European castles (and sometimes the WHOLE castle) just to have them. Or, they’ve built their own. Have you visited Boldt Castle in Alexandria Bay in the Thousand Islands?

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  6. Joanne, I must have gotten the ‘kiddie’ version of the tour when we were there. Just the facts man! But the doors; oh what a delight! I hope you are planning to show some of the objects of torture in your next post. I could not even imagine what they did with some of those things. Amazing images of an amazing place. You were very near ‘old town’, which has tons of original structures along narrow, winding cobblestone streets. Some of the best restaurants in town are found there, You could wander for days and not see the same structure twice. I love beautiful reminders of places we have visited. Thanks for this post.

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    • How long ago since you were there? The story really elevated this tour to a new level πŸ˜†

      I wish we could have walked around the old town. It looked so interesting but when we finally exited the castle, the rain we had been promised started in a torrent. We walked for a bit to find a nice place for lunch hoping the rain would eventually stop by the time it finished. We lingered as long as we dared in the restaurant but the rain showed no sign of letting up so we headed back to Bruges πŸ˜•

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  7. A plethora of doors it seems Joanne. I was chuckling at the story and imagining such a thing being told here in Canada. I think not. πŸ™‚ The castle sounds fascinating. Imagine if all of those doors could tell their tales over the centuries!

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    • When there is a restoration it’s hard to tell how old the doors really are. In this case, it was the number and variety of doors that caught my attention. I would have expected to see a continuing theme throughout the castle but the designs seemed all over the place.

      Liked by 1 person

  8. I figured that McMansions are a contemporary conceit – so I was surprised to learn that even in the iron age, the large bank and ditch structures were erected to protect, yes, but also to impress – “See? I have a 6 meter high gleaming white quartz barricade and you don’t. Bow before me, you lesser being you.”

    I do enjoy your posts!

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    • Thanks for the high praise, Maggie. It’s much appreciated πŸ’•

      When the penny finally dropped on the whole flaunt and intimidate thing, it seemed so obvious. People haven’t changed a bit over the centuries.

      Liked by 1 person

  9. Castles, doors, sex. Only you could combine the three! And I think KB is quite right – those Europeans are much more open about S.E.X. than we English and that attitude was most likely taken over to N. America.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I wish we could have spent more time walking around Ghent. The weather was truly miserable and when we came out of the castle it poured and poured – not exactly conducive for walking around. What little we saw in the pouring rain looked so interesting!

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  10. I am chuckling over hear as I think about your laughter echoing within the walls of this castle as you listen to the guided tour. Such an interesting & fun collection of doors Joanne.

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  11. I like to visit old castles and hear the history but I don’t think I’d want to live in one. They are so damp and dark. Built more for protection than comfort – I do love the green door

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    • When we toured Mont St-Michel, our tour guide did an excellent job of describing what it would have been like as a resident.
      We see only the bare stone walls which look so cold and uninviting. The wealth of the owners would have provided deep rugs on the floors and coverings on the walls. In fact it would have been quite plush. However, true about the darkness, and I’m quite sure the fireplaces didn’t dispel all the dampness πŸ™‚

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  12. Nothing like a great tour with a side of sex. We Americans are prudes. I had a German neighbor at another house. She had a pool in her yard. When she had German visitors she had a hard time getting them to keep their clothes on. She said nude swimming was typical where she came from. Yikes. There are bodies I just don’t want to see.

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  13. Cameras love a good castle, and your camera is no exception. I like the concept of a door within a door. This way, if you need to move a large piece of furniture in, such as a torture rack, you can open the bigger door to allow passage.

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  14. I love castles! Want to go to Ireland someday and tour the castles there! Great shots that you took and LOL at the door above the door!
    Glad that you had a tour that delighted your eyes and gave you history with laughter! πŸ™‚

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  15. I love visiting castles as well. Or grand houses. I think the one that impressed me the most was Peterhof Palace in St. Petersburg.

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  16. Gorgeous photos and doors! I do love me a good castle. I echo Klausbernd’s sentiments about Europeans vs North Americans. We are pretty uptight about sex (in public, anyways) by comparison. I remember with great humour a visit to my workplace by a Dutch veterinarian who was speaking quite bluntly (Of course! He’s Dutch!) about animal AND human reproduction and the shocked looks on peoples’ faces. It was hard not to giggle. I enjoyed myself immensely that day…

    Liked by 1 person

  17. Dear Joanne,
    I really like how you photographed this castle. I know it quite well.
    And to the stories: Sex during the high middle ages was quite different as we see it today. If you read the low minnes poems f.e. Walther von der Vogelweide or the epic texts f.e. Hartman von Aue you would probably be shocked. I love in Hartman von Aue’s “Der arme Heinrich” how he describes that the lovers have their time “in bette verliggen”. But you have to see as well that most Europeans are not as prudish as the Americans. For me it was the other way round. When I taught at USAmerican universities I was amazed how prudish even the students were.
    I experienced that cultural differences show most clearly in your attitude to sex.
    I really like what you write in your first paragraphs. Indeed, only the obscenely rich could afford to build and live in a castle – actually in all times.
    Thanks a lot for your post
    Klausbernd
    Greetings from the rest of The Fab Four of Cley

    Liked by 2 people

    • You hit the nail on the head. My husband and I are always amused at the differences in attitudes about sex between North Americans and Europeans. It was without exaggeration when I said that your typical North American parent would have been appalled to have their child listen to this story. Meanwhile, I thought it was brilliantly done. Definitely not your standard self-guided tour!!

      Liked by 2 people

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