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by Bear in Britain
Windsor, United Kingdom
October 21, 2002
Inside you’ll see a massive lower hall hung with the flags of Bruges medieval guilds; an important reminder that this city was built on commerce. The real treat, however, is upstairs.
The Middle Ages were dark and disdained until the Victorians did us the favour of rediscovering them. It was the 19th century architectural buffs who really realised that the era, at least for the wealthy, was colourful, sumptuous and comfortable. They went a bit mad "discovering" forgotten Medieval jewels across Europe. Often, they took a next step and "restored" them … usually a recreation a bit closer to Victorian fairy tale fantasy than historic reality. If you’re a purist, this disturbs you greatly. I dare anyone, however, to be too negative about the gothic fantasy the 19th century restorers brought to life here.
The sweeping arches are picked out in gold gilt that glistens beneath the modern spotlights. Every small area is coloured with some bright, magnificent pattern. Large spaces are filled with life-sized murals depicting historic moments and daily activities in medieval Bruges. The details in these paintings are striking. I must have spent at least two hours here, moving from scene to scene and "reading" the pictorial stories with rapt attention.
The Town Hall has regular opening hours but does shut down intermittently for weddings. No surprise! Anyone would want to get married in this sumptuous interior.
Just a few steps from the Town Hall is another gothic gem, the Basilica of the Holy Blood. It’s unusual in that it’s two stories. The top chapel, like the Town Hall, owes much of its present appearance to 19th century restoration. I find their work here pleasant, but less impressive. The relic after which the place is named is located here; a vial of what is supposed to be the blood of Christ, revealed to worshipers on special occasions and kept at other times in a sumptuous reliquary. Whether or not you believe in these things, you have to be impressed by the art that’s been created to venerate them.
It’s the lower chapel that really impresses me. It’s smaller, darker, more cramped. Dating from the 12th century, it’s built in the older Romanesque style that goes right back to the patterns of ancient Rome. It’s more like a magical cave than a building, a feeling that’s exacerbated by the contrast of the gold cloths and fittings of the altar, shining from the gloom. This highly atmospheric, almost secret, place creates a much more spiritual and mystical feeling for me the brighter, more ornate space upstairs.
From journal A Winter Weekend in Bruges
September 19, 2004
The grand Stadhuis, or Town Hall, stands stately in this square. Built between 1376 and 1420, it is one of the oldest and finest town halls in Belgium.
Wait! Before exiting through Blind Donkey Alley into the 18th century Vismarkt, take time to visit the Heilig Bloed Basiliek, located in a corner of Burg Square; easily overlooked if you're not aware of the treasure contained within. Heilig Bloed Basiliek, or "Basilica of the Holy Blood," holds sacred a crystal vial said to contain a drop of Christ's blood, brought from the Crucifixion to Bruges by Joseph of Arimethea. Every year, on Ascension Day, the Relic is carried through the streets of Bruges during a solemn and colourful procession.
From journal Charming Bruges
Moscow, Moskva, Russia
May 30, 2013
From journal cultural and political center of Europe
Ayr, Scotland, United Kingdom
November 8, 2003
The religious significance of the square is now harder to find. However, tucked away in the corner of Burg square, next to the town hall, is the Basilius church and the Chapel of the Holy Blood. Its three-arched façade date from 1534. Its ornate stone carvings and gilded statues of angels, knights with their ladies stand below two closely adjoining and Islamic-looking towers. The lower part, the Basilius chapel, is in Romanesque style from the 12th-13th century. It gloomy, shadowy interior has stark uncompromising Romanesque pillars and little decoration except for a relief carving over an interior doorway depicting the baptism of St Basil. On the left side of the choir is the former chapel of the clerks of the civil registry (1503) and on the right side a statue of the Virgin from around 1300. The Tympanum a sculptured stone in half relief decorates the passage between the main nave and the side chapel probably representing the baptism of St. Basilius.
Behind a strikingly decorated façade a staircase leads to the first floor containing the Holy Blood. This room floods with light. The ceiling rather bizarrely looks like an upturned boat. The church built in Romanesque style like the Basilius church on the ground floor changed to gothic style during its history. Mural decorations in the church date from this renovation. Copies replacing the original stained-glass windows date from the 19th century.
In a small side chapel you'll find the holy relic. The phial remains in a handsomely decorated ornate silver tabernacle during the week. Viewing is possible every Friday and every day from the 3rd to the 17th of May.
Outside the chapel is the Holy Blood museum containing the shrine for the Holy Blood and other treasures belonging to the chapel. According to recent investigations, the bottle of rock crystal, containing the blood only dates from the 11th or 12th century. Certainly there is no mention in the bible about the saving of any of Christ's blood.
Some good views can be had of the squares and canal by strolling down Blinde Ezelstraat (Blind Donkey Street) between the Town Hall and the Civic Registry. At the end of the square turn right into Rozenhoedkaai (Rosary Quay). From here you get lovely view of the canal, waterside houses and Belfry.
If you go back through Huidenvettersplein and continue along the waterfront, across the canal you can see a part of the original 16th-century Palace of the Liberty of Bruges in the Burg.
From journal Bruges - a reawakened medieval city
The square's stunning gothic town hall (1376) is the oldest in Belgium. Its front facade has six gothic windows and the Coats of Arms of the cities and villages under administrative rule from Bruges. Statues on the façade are replacements for the original statues of biblical figures and counts of Flanders.
In the entrance hall, a large staircase leads to the Gothic Hall (1386-1401). The small balcony near the door allowed the town pipers and other musicians to perform from an elevated platform. This Hall witnessed the first meeting of the States General established by the Dukes of Burgundy to regulate donations to the treasury.
The vaulted oak ceiling (begun in 1385 and finished in 1402) has long pendant keystones at the junction of the arches richly decorated in tones of brown, black, maroon, and gold, surrounding painted scenes from the New Testament. This hall decorated with neo-gothic murals by the De Vriende brothers in 1905 show important events in the city's history.
Next to the town hall stands the Old Civil Registry (1534-1537) in Renaissance style--since 1883 used as the Peace Court. The sinuously curved and scrolled gables contrast with the older, linear step gables of most of the buildings in Bruges. The decorative bronze statues represent Justice, Moses and Aaron.
On its left side the former Court of Justice in neo-classicist style dates from 1722-1727. Inside is the celebrated chimney of the 'Brugse Vrije'. Built between 1528 and 1581 in wood, alabaster, and marble, it commemorates the victory of Emperor Charles V in Pavia over King François I of France. The carving cover the entire wall, joining the ceiling with carved tendrils and caskets. A statue of Charles in full armour, wearing the emblem of the Order of the Golden Fleece stands in the centre. Forty-six coats of arms and ribbons also appear on it. Part of the Old Court of Justice building now houses the Bruges Tourist Information Centre.
On the left side of the square is the Deanery (1662), the former house of the Deans of the St. Donatius church. Later it became part of the palace of the Bishop of Bruges. Its parapet is lined with urns and topped with a female personification of justice armed with sword and scales.