The Burg Square - Holy Relics and Beyond

Member Rating 5 out of 5 by Drever on November 8, 2003

The main religious building in the city was the St. Donatius Church placed right in the heart of Bruges, opposite the town hall. At the end of the 18th-century French invaders cast out the bishop of Bruges and demolished his bishopric seat, St. Donatius Church. A miniature stone replica of the vanished cathedral stands on the square. The Deanery the former house of the Deans of the St. Donatius church stills stands in the square.

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.

The Burg Square
Near Market Place
Bruges, Belgium

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