We follow the legacy of Carlos V in Flanders

Born in Ghent, in the Belgian region of Flanders, Charles V of the Holy Roman Empire and I of Spain reigned over all Hispanic territories between 1516 and 1556. In several cities we can see his legacy, but perhaps this one is more special in his homeland. You want to know more?

Who was Carlos V?

He was born on February 24, 1500 in Ghent, the capital of the province of East Flanders., in the Flemish region. Carlos V was the son of Juana I of Castile and Felipe el Hermoso. He was the grandson on his father’s side of Maximilian I of Habsburg and Maria of Burgundy, while on his mother’s side he descended from Isabel I of Castile and Fernando II of Aragon.

From the former he inherited the Burgundian heritage and the Austrian territories (in addition to the right to the throne) and from the latter Castile, Aragon, Navarre, Naples, Sicily and the Indies. Before the year of age he had already been named Duke of Luxembourg and Knight of the Order of the Golden Fleece.

In 1516 his maternal grandfather died and soon after he became Carlos I of Navarra. Only 3 years later his paternal grandfather died and he also became Emperor Charles V. In 1526 he married his cousin Isabella of Portugal in Seville. From that union 6 children were born. Only half survived childhood: Philip, Maria (married to Maximilian II of Habsburg), and Juana (married to Juan Manuel of Portugal).

After almost 40 years of reign he abdicated, dying in 1558 affected by malaria after a month of agony and fever. He was buried in the Royal Crypt of the El Escorial Monastery.

“The reason of State must not be opposed to the state of reason.”

-Carlos V-

The footsteps of Carlos V in Flanders

After being born in the Prinsenhoff Palace in Ghent, the future monarch spent much of his life in this region of Belgium. Several important events of its existence also happened here. Therefore, it is not strange to understand why Flanders is a good place to learn about Charles V.

We begin, of course, with the palace where his mother, Juana la Loca, gave birth to her firstborn. The marriage lived there permanently, since the previous one did not have the necessary luxuries. In their new property they could enjoy two hectares of land, 300 rooms and a wall in its entirety.. They even had a private zoo, which increased its population when Charles V brought four lions from Tunis.

Unfortunately, Today only one arch remains from that period.known as the Donkere Poort, or “dark gate”, at the end of Prinsenhof street and near the Lieve canal.

The penitents

The monarch did not enjoy the sympathy of his subjects. That can also be seen on this tour. In front of the already mentioned door there is a statue called “Ghent penitent”, who wears a rope around his neck. It recalls when in 1540 the emperor ordered a group of citizens who had protested the high taxes to pay for wars to parade barefoot, half-naked and with a rope around their necks.

Curiously, for the inhabitants of the city this is a pride and for ten days each July they celebrate that little rebellion with parades of people with ropes around their necks and re-enactments of those events.

Other places related to the figure of Carlos V

We return to the time when Carlos was not yet King of Spain or Holy Roman Emperor. We go to the year 1500, when He was baptized in the Parish Church of San Juan Bautistatoday Saint Bavo’s Cathedral.

Near this temple at the time of Carlos V there was an abbey dedicated to the same saint, patron saint of the city. The monarch had it demolished almost entirely as punishment for the aforementioned revolt.

Other monuments that tell us about Carlos V are the effigy on the facade of the building known as “Casa de las Cabezas Coronadas”, the full body sculpture in the Prinsenhof Plein (gift from the city of Toledo and whose original is in the Prado Museum in Madrid) and the symbols of the imperial eagle and the columns of Hercules in different areas of Ghent.

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