Ypres. The name itself has become a symbol of remembrance for those who fell during the Great War. A famous picture of a ruined Cloth Hall gives us witness to one of the most horrific pages in human history. Few people realize that behind the restored façades and monumental buildings of this city, an rich history of medieval wealth and privileges is told.

Ypres was once one of the most important cities of Europe and even bigger than London during the 11th century with over 35.000 inhabitants. Traders from Italy, Sweden, Russia, England, France,… met at Ypres to trade precious goods as silver, spices, wines and of course, cloth. Wool from the Flemish coast and England was weaved to precious cloth by the best craftsmen in Europe and exported by merchants to all over Europe. The yearly market was thé happening of the year. Vessels from the North Sea sealed into town through the river Ypra. The hustle and bustle most have been a thrill to experience.

From the 14th century on Flanders was common victim of the conflicts between France and England. As a vassal to France, the Count of Flanders and his people were involved in a constant play of chess between their ‘maître’ and their English cooperates. Eventually, the tide turned and the traders cleared the path for the civilians to seek other and more prosperous places. Ypres fell asleep.

The claim of the German cavalry to the Ypres’ treasury on 7 October 1914 was a knock on the door of what was to come… The first locals fled in October and November 1914 as the First Battle of Ypres waved bombardments on the town. The gas attack and the advance of the German troops during the Second Battle in April 1915 made Ypres a sitting duck, scarily peeping at its gates. The last inhabitants in the casemates fled head over heels, the first Canadian troops bore the brunt. And so Ypres became a military bastion for 3 years and a gate to the front. Ever since, many families come to pay tribute to the final resting place of their son, husband, father or (great)grandfather. Ypres as a symbol of remembrance and peace will carry a special place in many British hearts.