The Diocese

The Diocese of Ghent and the Chapter.

The territory of the new diocese was smaller than it is at present. In the east its border was formed by the river Scheldt although there were some parishes (like Dendermonde and Wetteren) on the opposite side of the river.

The diocese of Ghent was created by the Papal Bull "Super Universitas" issued by Pope Paul IV on the 12th of May 1559. Previously this territory formed part of the dioceses of Cambrai, Tournai and Utrecht.

The Diocese

Sint-Baafskathedraal Gent ©

Art in Flanders, foto's Hugo Maertens, Dominique Provost

Such towns like Eeklo and their surrounding parishes formed part of the old diocese of Bruges. When the Concordat of 15/08/1801 between Napoleon and Pope Pius VII dissolved the dioceses of Bruges and Ieper their territories were added to the diocese of Ghent. However the Papal Bull of 24 May 1834 issued by Pope Gregory XVI refounded the diocese of Bruges which covers the current province of West Flanders.

Around 630, Saint Amandus founded a community of secular clergy close to the location of our cathedral. This group, which adopted the rule of Saint Benedict, became known as the abbey of Saint Bavo after the saint who died here.

The sixteenth century was a tumultuous era .At the request in 1536 of local boy emperor Charles V , the abbey of Saint Bavo was transformed into a chapter of canons, which kept the rights and privileges of what was once one of the most important abbeys in Flanders. The chapter consisted of a provost, a dean, a cantor, a treasurer, a scholiast and 24 canons. In 1540 the buildings of the abbey were pulled down to make room for a fortress. The canons moved to the church of Saint John which was duly renamed the church of Saint Bavo . With the creation of the diocese of Ghent in 1559, the church of Saint Bavo became a cathedral.

The incorporation of Flanders into France in 1795 brought with the dissolution of all religious institutions, including the diocese of Ghent and the chapter of Saint Bavo. These were reformed after the Concordat of 1801. Since the changes in the Canonical Law of 1983 the chapter has to provide the right amount of pomp for the religious services in the cathedral. The members of the chapter, currently around 20, are mostly employed in the administration of the diocese.

There are strong ties of friendship dating back to the fifteenth century, between the chapters of Ghent and Haarlem (the Netherlands).

The current head of the chapter is the dean, canon Frans Temmerman.