It is difficult to leave Ghent without mentioning Sint-Niklaaskerk and Sint-Baafskathedral (St. Nicholas Church and St. Bavo's Cathedral respectively). Both are very old with histories that are well worth reading.
The two churches are within sight of each other, about 3 blocks apart. Sint-Niklaaskerk was built first, beginning in the 13th century and was the church of the trade unions (or "guilds"). The side altars of the church were built by each of the guilds and the church was a powerful meeting place (non-political, of course).
When I first entered the church I was struck by the amount of light present because from the outside I expected the opposite. The church is very bright even though it is Gothic. Other than tourists, there were people there praying or meditating in the quiet peacefulness, of this immense house of worship. As I found in Bruges, all the visitors to this church were wonderfully quiet and respectful, moving slowly throughout the church. There were no accidental flashes or slightly raised voices. Even the tour guides were able to speak in subdued tones.
Perhaps some of the serenity was reverence, and part was pure awe, but I have never experienced the feeling of absolute peace that I have experienced in Belgium, and I wasn't the only one. I had inadvertently stepped in front of a person taking a picture and later we happened to be leaving the church at the same time. I had heard the man talking to his wife inside and knew they were American, so I apologized for ruining his picture. We chatted about the church for a few minutes, and then he said, "You know, even though we're Jewish. I felt that I should put on a yarmulke." Later, I talked to a tour guide who said that the tourists in Belgium are mostly very reserved and respectful in all of the churches.
The interior of Sint-Niklaaskerk does inspire a certain amount of awe. The Scheldt-Gothic interior and vaulted ceilings are most impressive, as is the high altar with its Baroque theme of The Last Judgement which has survived the past forty years of renovation. Guaranteed a Do Not Miss attraction in Ghent.
Next, the second church and one of the most important cathedrals in Europe - Sint-Baafskathedral.