The Birth of Capitalism - The Golden age of Flanders

Opening hours
Open 10 am to 6 pm
(access till 5 pm)
Closed Mondays

Entry charges

10 EUR:
Individual visitors

7 EUR:
From age 19 to 26
Holders of accredited teacher cards
Persons with a disability
Groups of 10 or more
Province of East-Flanders staff
VAB members

0 EUR:
City Card Ghent
Up to age 18
Escorts of persons with a disability
Press, on presentation of a press card
Accredited guide’s card
members of OKV, ICOM & 
holders of a Davidsfonds culture card  
Students on presentation of a student card 

Provinciaal Cultuurcentrum Caermersklooster
Vrouwebroersstraat 6 – 9000 Ghent
tel. +32 (0)9 269 29 10  

Guided tours
Bookings for guided tours 
can be made via:
(reservation required. Max. 20 persons per group)

Gandante vzw
+32 (0)9 375 31 61   

De Gentse Gidsen
+32 (0)9 233 07 72  

+32 (0)9 269 52 18 

A new man is awakening in Flanders
Standing up, creating, exploring
Looking for his place
And discovering himself
He’s trading and making money
New money and gold

And this new man is discovering sin
Dancing and drinking
Playing and making love
His world is wild and wide
His soul is tense from time
to time

‘Kneel down and be pious, new man!’
Dig deep for mercy
And he dies, yet survives
Germinated, unleashed, irreversibly
A new man has awakened in Flanders,
His spirit lives in you and me

Rick de Leeuw & Katharina Van Cauteren


Today’s world is the product of the late Middle Ages. In what is now called ‘Flanders’, a new man now enters the stage. A practical man, an enterprising man. A critical man, who is no longer satisfied with what the church and nobility wants him to believe. This enterprising man wants to see and believe things for himself. He wants to discover a world, create, produce and innovate. In order to become rich.

But where there’s money, sin is never far away. Greed, gluttony, lust and laziness stand between the enterprising man and his place in heaven. Yet, in a world where everything is for sale, one can also invest in the hereafter. The enterprising man exchanges gold for indulgences and relics, venerates images — and falls down. Yet the Eighty Years’ War was no more than a temporary obstacle, because the spirit of enterprise lives on triumphantly up until the present day.

From 17 June 2016 until 22 January 2017, the Province of East Flanders will be staging an exhibition called ‘The birth of capitalism - The golden age of Flanders’ at the Caermersklooster Cultural Centre in Ghent. Masterpieces and unknown gems will accompany the visitor on a journey through the fascinating Middle Ages and bring the past back to life in a stunning setting.

Crazy but enterprising people

Enterprising people are mad. At least, that’s what people thought in the sixteenth century, when Fool’s Market left the studio of the Verbeeck family. Ships teeming with madmen are eagerly traded. But on their way, these little fools infect everyone with their madness. On the left, pilgrims worship a pair of fools. Behind them, there is wild dancing and a young woman hurls herself impetuously on a man. On the extreme right, a brazen nun reaches with the required enthusiasm for her lover’s ‘dagger’. No explanation is required.

For people in the sixteenth century, the fools in this painting were a symbol of everything that the wise man should resist. Only fools succumb to their baser urges and passions. But anyone who wants a place in heaven has to show moderation and remain in control of himself. The scene therefore shows us what we should avoid - a world standing on its head. But we get what we deserve: on the right, the inn is on fire. Those who simply surrender to everything that is fun in life will go to hell for all eternity.

However, a good dose of madness can be good for enterprising people. Both in the sixteenth century and today, enterprise means following your instincts, persevering and thinking outside the box. The genuine fool can never be tamed: he does everything to his heart’s content, works hard and laughs as he speaks his mind. At the end of the day, he won’t lose any sleep worrying about either heaven or hell.


More information at 
Press and press images


OKV magazine - special issue (Openbaar Kunstbezit Vlaanderen/Public Art Collection Flanders)

Niels Schalley, Hannah Thijs, Katharina Van Cauteren, OKV, 2016.
€ 10

The Birth of Capitalism. The Golden Age of Flanders
Katharina Van Cauteren en Fernand Huts, Lannoo, 2016.
€ 45

Golden Times. Wealth and Status in the Middle Ages in the Southern Low Countries
Véronique Lambert and Peter Stabel (editors), Lannoo, 2016.
€ 125