on March 29, 2006
In the ancient town of Bruges,In the quaint old Flemish city,As the evening shades descended,Low and loud and sweetly blended,Low at times and loud at times,And changing like a poet's rhymes,Rang the beautiful wild chimesFrom the Belfry in the marketOf the ancient town of Bruges--Taken from "The Belfry of Bruges Carillon," written by the popular 19th-century American poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow.The 83m-high Belfry tower and the Cloth Hall, dating back from 1240, still dominate the Market Square of today. Not only did it function as seat of government and marketplace for sale of cloth (hence the name "cloth hall"), it symbolized the economic, political, and social bases of the city. The Belfry fire of 1280 destroyed the first tower, yet served as a portent of developing the impending change of the city. The Belfry tower was the place where the important documents of the city were preserved. At the same time, such towers were used as watchtowers. Inside hung bells, each bell having a distinct sound and function (e.g. bells for danger, bells for important announcements, bells to indicate the time, etc.).What many people do not know, since it is practically not visible to the eye, is that the tower leans, by an exact measurement of 83 cm (southerly). The lower floor began sagging, which may have been brought on by the filling of the Reie (a canal) on the south side of the building. To compensate for this, the above floor was built leaning, and as the top was being constructed (from 1482-1486), it too was built leaning but in the opposite direction, causing a zigzag affect. The Wooden Spire, which once decorated the top of the tower, burnt for a second time in 1741 and was therefore never reconstructed.Nowadays, the Belfry tower charms the visitor with the lovely music of a "carillion," which consists of 47 bells with a combined weight of 27 tons. For an individual entrance fee of 5 euro, it is possible to reach the top of the tower by climbing the 366 steps to the belfry (unfortunately, there is no lift). From there out one can enjoy the spectacular overview of Bruges itself, not to mention the up-close view of the magnificent bells system. Learn about how they give out their beautiful tones.
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