1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Alost

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ALOST (Flem. Aalst), a town of Belgium, in the province of East Flanders, situated on the left bank of the Dender; the ancient capital of what was called Imperial Flanders. Pop. (1897) 28,771; (1904) 31,655. Flanders in the feudal period was a hef of the king of France-the count of Flanders being the first of the twelve peers of France; but there was a small strip extending from Alost to the isles of Zeeland, designated Imperial Flanders, of which the count was the vassal of the Holy Roman emperor. Attached to the hôtel de ville is a fine belfry of the 15th century, but unfortunately it was seriously damaged by fire in 1879. In the church of St Martin, dating from 1498 but unfinished, is a fine Rubens. The subject is St Roch, the patron saint of lepers, and the colouring of the scaly skin of the leper in the forefront of the picture is generally regarded as one of the master’s most striking eriects. The work was painted to the order of the Brewers' Gild in (it is said) eight days. It was outside Alost that William Clito, grandson of William the Conqueror, who was then endeavouring to establish his claims as count of Flanders, was mortally wounded in 1128. Of all the claims Alost possesses to fame perhaps the most remarkable is that Thierry Maartens (c. 1474) set up there one of the first printing presses in Europe. Alost is famous to-day for its hop gardens and linen-bleaching establishments. The meadows south of Alost are often covered with the linen undergoing the process of bleaching, which makes them assume the aspect of a whitish-blue carpet.