Construction of the tower began in 1313 to the design of master mason Jan van Haelst, whose plans are still preserved in a museum. After continuing intermittently through wars, plagues and political turmoil, the work reached completion in 1380. It was near the end of this period that the gilded dragon, brought from Bruges, assumed its place atop the tower. The uppermost parts of the building have been rebuilt several times, in part to accommodate the growing number of bells.
The primary bell in the tower, Roland, was the one used by citizens to warn of an enemy approaching or a battle won. "Roland has become almost a person to the people of Belgium. He is a patriot, a hero, a leader in all rebellion against unrighteous authority." (Text from Wikipedia).