Over ten centuries ago, the foundations were laid for the building where Hostel Uppelink currently stands. Throughout its history, the building was expanded and adapted to its ever-changing purpose, until it took on the appearance in 1909 that it still has today.
The medieval builders ordered expensive limestone that was supplied from Tournai over the river Scheldt. The tall building with its imposing façade (a ‘stone house’) had a strategic location: it overlooked the St Michael’s Bridge and the road to Bruges. The powerful patricians who took residence in the building protected themselves from rivaling families behind the building’s robust walls with merlons.
Around the fifteenth century, the influential and wealthy residents gave the right-hand side of the building its namesake, Lintworm. This word, ‘lintworm’ (tapeworm), had entirely different connotation in the Middle Ages. Back then, a tapeworm was a mythical creature that appeared in the shape of a giant snake, a dragon or a crocodile and it symbolized force, power and invincibility. It comes as no surprise that these patricians readily identified with this creature.
Around 1500, the year in which Charles V was born in the Prinsenhof in Ghent, Robert De Keysere took up residence at the Lintworm. The city of Ghent was at its peak: commerce was booming and culturally, the city was regarded as the centre of the Renaissance humanism movement. De Keysere, a humanist himself, contributed to this cultural efflorescence. He already owned a large printer at the Korenlei and he also founded a Latin school at the Lintworm, where the classics were studied. Erasmus of Rotterdam, a friend of Dekeysere’s, visited the school in the fall of 1503 and was impressed by its high-standard academic level. When Philip II, King of Spain and son of Charles V, visited the city of Ghent in 1556 and in 1559, the Count of Egmont made arrangements for the monarch and his company of four hundred people to reside at the Lintworm during their stay.
The building next to the Lintworm served as the workshop of a cobbler for a long period. The other side of the property, at the side of the St Michael’s Church, was known as the ‘Carre’ in the fourteenth century. For a long time, it was an inn for grain merchants. Later on, the city administration repurposed the ‘Carre’ to be a base for collecting taxes on the brewing of beer. In the context of this operation, a cooperative of 'biervoerders and bierdragers' (ale merchants and ale carriers) was set up in the sixteenth century. Thirty men were given the order to carry all the beer that was brewed in Ghent down to the beer cellars under the stairs of the Lintworm. As a consequence, the entire building was renamed to ‘Keytekelder’, after an old, strong ale that was originally brewed with water from a well underneath the building. This well still exists to this day, but the water is undrinkable.
From 1675 onwards, the 'biervoerderhuis' (merchant ale house) fell into the hands of the Church and served as a presbytery of the St Michael’s Parish for a century. Afterwards, the building was sold publically to private individuals. At the beginning of the nineteenth century, a part of the property had to give way to the widening of the bridge, the current Sint-Michielshelling. What used to be a proud ‘stone house’, was gradually transformed into a run-of-the-mill whitewashed town house, housing several cafés and a restaurant.
In the run-up to the world exposition that was to take place in Ghent in 1913, both the Graslei and the Korenlei were ‘refurbished’ to give them a medieval character. The white townhouse on the corner was a ruin by that time and was intended to be demolished. However, the construction of the new St Michael’s Bridge unearthed the original construction layers. Under the pressure of an action committee, the building was almost entirely rebuilt to partly look like an authentic thirteenth century fortified castle. After the world exposition, the renovated stone house became the decadent abode of the pastor of the St Michael’s Church. In 1958, the building was sold publically and in 1979, the Graaf van Egmond restaurant opened for business. After thorough renovation work following the closure of the restaurant in 2008, Hostel Uppelink was officially opened in September 2012.