British Military & Criminal History:
1900 to 1999.
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This page contains the details of the Commonwealth War Grave Commission (CWGC) cemeteries and memorials that I have visited in Belgium.
Ypres (Ieper) is an ancient town, known to have been raided by the Romans in the first century BC.
During the Middle Ages, Ypres was a prosperous city renowned for its linen trade with England. As the third largest city after Ghent and Bruges, Ypres played an important role in the Province of Flanders.
The Cloth Hall was built in the thirteenth century. Also during this time cats, then the symbol of the devil and witchcraft, were thrown off Cloth Hall, possibly due to the belief that this would get rid of evil demons. This act is now commemorated with a Cat Parade through the city, with toy cats being thrown from the Cloth Hall tower. The parade takes place on the 2nd Sunday in May, in every third year; the next parade being on Sunday 13 May 2012.
Ypres became the seat of the new Diocese of Ypres in 1561, and St Martin's Church was elevated to cathedral status.
Ypres had long been fortified to keep out invaders. Parts of the early ramparts, dating from 1385, still survive near the Rijselpoort (Lille Gate).
The Rijselpoort (Lille Gate) (Stephen Stratford 2011).
Over time, the earthworks were replaced by sturdier masonry and earth structures and a partial moat. Ypres was further fortified in 17th and 18th centuries while under the occupation of the Habsburgs and the French. Major works were completed at the end of the 17th century by the French military engineer Sebastien Le Prestre, Seigneur de Vauban.
The Ieper Cloth Hall with St. Martins Cathedral in background (Stephen Stratford 2011).
St. Martin's Cathedral (Stephen Stratford 2011).
Saint Martin's Cathedral, originally built in 1221, was completely rebuilt after the First World War, but with a higher spire than before its destruction. It houses the tombs of Jansenius, Bishop of Ypres and father of the religious movement known as Jansenism, and of Robert of Bethune, nicknamed "The Lion of Flanders", who was Count of Nevers (1273–1322) and Count of Flanders (1305–1322).