The scribbled handwriting names this photo ‘the cloth hall in Ypres.’ Haunting as a ghost of itself; reminiscent of Henry the VIII’s destruction of the abbeys- only a few walls remain. The space is a barren land. It would take someone of great imagination to fashion what it would have looked like before the war. How did Belgium handle this violation?
Started in 1200 and considered complete on 1304, the Hall stood as a testament of the life of Gothic splendour: an ancient mall of sorts. Used as a storage house for textiles, on market day the place would have been be alive with industry in its primal sense: the sale of natural resources. The upper floors, harbour the more artistic rooms-frescoes and paintings that idealize the boom time of the hall- some 200 years in the middle ages. Here textile dealers would come to discuss and sell wares, the and profession. It was the life of the city.
The belfry, completed in 1201 was the locale of a strange ceremony in which black cats would be thrown- in the hope of banishing black magic from the town. This ceremony is still followed- but granted, with stuffed cats.
But war will claim present and past. Germany will march through neutral Belgium in 1914, bringing Britain, and in turn Canada, into the Great War- the First World War.
In 1915, Ypres, and the cloth hall was overwhelmed by a series of attacks, the reason would be discovered later to be distracting the attention of the allies from Germany’s secret preparations of chlorine gas that were put into position for the Canadians and French colonial troops. This gas would be used at the Second Battle of Ypres.
A rebuilding of the cloth hall started in 1928 and was completed in 1967. It is declared a World Heritage site by UNESCO, and houses the Flanders Fields Museum.