It is generally know there is a tremendous rivalry between the cities of Bruges and Ghent. The Battle at Beverhoutsveld on 3 May 1382 is a moment where troops of both cities engage in battle. The army of Ghent won against the – somewhat drunk – troops of Bruges. Bruges was pillaged, they took our golden dragon. Coming from the Blind Donkey Street, turning in the Eekhoustraat street towards the Gentpoort, which obviously leads to Ghent! With those two poor, blind donkeys pulling the wagon with a golden dragon on it… or so the legend says…

A golden dragon in Bruges, at Eekhoutstraat 5

This rivalry started a long, long time ago!

Under the command of Count Baldwin IX, the troops of Ghent and Bruges occupied the city of Constantinople. The daughter of the king, Blanca, captured by the men of Bruges was held captive in one of the many towers in the city. Not long after the door was locked, a dragon flew pass the tower, scaring off the guards (probably men from Ghent). The dragon took a position at the tower, letting no one pass. This girl was his prisoner now!

A desperate king asked the help of the troops of Ghent. Baldwin IX gathered his men and faced the dragon. However, when they approached this foul beast, it simply blew them back in a cloud of stinking smoke. The brave men attempted a second run, but the dragon was simply too strong. There was no other thing to do but retreat. 

The dragon on top of the Belfry of Ghent

The disappointed king offered the men of Ghent a chest filled with gold together with a golden sculpture of the dragon, but they knew their attempt would be futile, so thanked the king for the offer. The men of Bruges heard of this chest with gold and golden dragon, and the failed attempts of the men of Ghent. The men of Bruges went to the king and promised him they would free his daughter. Of course, the reward should be the same. The king, desperate to have his daughter back at his side, agreed.

The men of Bruges gathered around a steaming, big cooking pot, where the contents of a mysterious bottle were added. They placed the pot in proximity of the dragon, which sniffed it carefully, apparently liked the smell and voraciously emptied the pot. After that delicious meal, he felt sleepy; with his stomach filled, he decided to take a nap. Taking advantage of this situation, the men of Bruges approached the dragon, tiptoeing closer, and killed the dragon by stabbing a sword through its heart. The king was ecstatic, gave the promised reward to the men. The men of Bruges left Constantinople by ship soon after, with their reward and Blanca, back home. The men of Ghent were left behind.

A few months later, the men arrived at the most beautiful beaches, with wavy sand dunes, close to Bruges. In honor of Blanca, the place where they landed was named after her. The sand dunes looked a bit like small mountains, so they gave it the name ‘Blanca-bergen’ (Blanca mountains). Today this place still exists and is named Blankenberge.

When they arrived in Bruges, the golden dragon was placed on top of the Saint Donatian church.

The Belfry of Ghent, with a fire-breathing dragon !

The men of Ghent were out on revenge. Under the command of Philip van Artevelde, they chose 3 May 1382, the day of the Holy Blood procession, to attack Bruges and conquer that dragon, at last.