The Ghent Altarpiece is undoubtedly one of the world’s great masterpieces. This work was painted in the 15th century by the brothers Hubert and Jan Van Eyck and just underwent a major restoration. The theme of the painting is the adoration of the mystic lamb and it has an incredible amount of detail and the botanical details in the work are unseen in any other painting of that period. No less then 75 flower, herbs and trees could were identified by botanists and makes it therefore a very interesting source of plants growing in the Middle Ages. Many of the plants featuring on the painting have also a spiritual and symbolic meaning.

2020 should have been the Van Eyck year and big events and exhibitions were set up, but as we all know, Covid-19 shook up the world and most of the events came to a halt. One of those events that you can go admire (although the official opening is postponed) is the “Garden of Vijd” in Hof ter Saksen in Beveren. The nobleman Joos Vijd, born and raised in Beveren, was the guy that commissioned the brothers Van Eyck to paint the altarpiece. To celebrate that link you can now admire a garden, planted with the plants that can be found back on the painting in the beautiful park of Hof ter Saksen.

The small garden is made out of four sections Some of the plants are highlighted with some more explanations. As you might notice some of the plants normally don’t grow in Belgium (pomegranate, orange, Italian cypres,…), so how did the Van Eyck brothers even know how they looked like ? Jan Van Eyck wasn’t only a painter, but also a diplomat at the court of Philip the Good, Duke of Burgundy, and therefore traveled many times to Spain and Portugal. So there he had time to study these exotic plants and managed to paint them in a detailed way. Near the garden you can find a large reproduction of the central panel of the altarpiece where you can find back all the plants. The information panels are only in Dutch, so if you can take a Flemish/Dutch friend with you, or use google translate to help you out.

To stay in the theme there is also a second exhibition garden of herbs used in the middle ages at the inner court of the old stables. Herbs used as a medicine or for making beer, you can all find them growing in this lovely setting. And if this is not enough, explore the beautiful park, arboretum, natural landscape garden, orchard and other parts in and around Hof ter Saksen.

This is the park I used to go to when I grew up (I lived 4km from it) and it’s also the place where my parents work(ed) for the local green service. So it’s a place close to my heart and I can promise you , it is more then worth a visit.

What : Tuin van Vijd ( Garden of Vijd) is open every day from 10h to 20h ( normally the garden will stay until 18th October 2020, but as I heard it might be still there next year as well…keep you updated)

Where : Hof ter Saksen, Hof ter saksendreef 2, 9120 Haasdonk ( 2km walk from Beveren trainstation)