on May 24, 2011
The "Onze-Lieve-Vrouwekerk " (Church of Our Lady) is on the canal and a short walk from the "Grote Markt" and the "Burg." There is a small bridge over the canal that leads to the back of the church. Built from the 13th to 15th century, the spire is 396 feet tall and is visible from miles away.Reaching the church via the above-mentioned bridge and coming in from the rear gives one the mistaken impression that the church is relatively new. While it has been renovated throughout its' history, and has a number of different styles, basically it is a Gothic building. Unlike the "Basilica of the Holy Blood," the "Church of Our Lady (which I have misidentified as the "Cathedral of Our Lady" in places) is anything but plain. The church is stunning in every way and is famous for a Carrara marble sculpture by Michelangelo. Known world-wide as the only piece of his work that left Italy during the artist's lifetime, the "Madonna and Child" is a marvelous example of the great artist's work.The sculpture's setting is no less impressive with two sculptures on each side and a Painting above. I saw people who were moved to tears by the sculpture and its presence almost close enough to touch. Others just stand in awe.The church is large, it's huge, but it has such majesty and splendor that I don't think that it can be experienced in any other way but in person. The "Madonna and Child" are certainly part of that emotion, but the rest of the church has no understated opulence. The splendor almost knocks the viewer over as one scene is more beautiful than the next. Tour group leaders seem to have difficulty keeping their groups together. Visitors just seem to wander off, in many ways oblivious to everything but where their eves are looking. The best story that I can tell is about the leader of a tour group who walked in the entrance with her group following. She got quite a distance away from the group because two guests had just barely passed through the entrance when they stopped - dead. For a few seconds no one else could get in. That would be my definition of "awestruck." Behind the High Alter is the church's Museum which is filled with centuries old vestments, chalices and other church pieces. There are two excavated crypts from priests who were buried in the 13th and 14th centuries Also in the museum are two bronze tomb sculptures of George the Bold, Duke of Burgundy, and his daughter, Mary of Burgundy. Between the tombs is another marvelous painting by Anthony van Dyke: The Crucifixion (see photograph). Entrance to the church is free, however there is a charge for the museum, which is well-worth the price. The Church of Our Lady is also on the "Do Not Miss" list for Bruges.
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