- FRANCE AND BELGIUM -

BRUGES Part 2

LINKS to pages in the France and Belgium site and to the Colin Day Travelling Days series:

     1 : Lille
     2 : Ghent
     3 : Ypres
     4 : Bruges

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The belfry of Bruges, or Belfort, is a medieval bell tower and one of the city's most prominent symbols. To the sides and back of the tower stands the former market hall, a rectangular building with an inner courtyard. The belfry formerly housed a treasury and the municipal archives, and served as an observation post for spotting fires and other danger. A narrow, steep staircase of 366 steps, accessible by the public for an entry fee, leads to the top of the 83-metre-high building, which leans about a metre to the east.

The belfry was added to the main market square around 1240, when Bruges was prospering as an important centre of the Flemish cloth industry. After a devastating fire in 1280, the tower was largely rebuilt. The city archives, however, were forever lost to the flames.

The octagonal upper stage of the belfry was added between 1483 to 1487, and capped with a wooden spire bearing an image of Saint Michael, banner in hand and dragon underfoot. The spire did not last long: a lightning strike in 1493 reduced it to ashes, and destroyed the bells as well.
An openwork stone parapet in Gothic style was added to the rooftop in 1822.


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The bells in the tower regulated the lives of the city dwellers, announcing the time, fire alarms, work hours, and a variety of social, political, and religious events. Eventually a mechanism ensured the regular sounding of certain bells, for example indicating the hour.

In the 16th century the tower received a carillon, allowing the bells to be played by means of a hand keyboard. In 1675 the carillon comprised 35 bells, designed by Melchior de Haze of Antwerp. After the fire of 1741 this was replaced by a set of bells cast by Joris Dumery, 26 of which are still in use. Today the bells number 47, together weighing about 27.5 tonnes. The weight of the bells range from 2 pounds to 11,000 pounds.

The belfry tower featured in the 2008 film, 'In Bruges'.






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The Basilica of the Holy Blood is a Roman Catholic minor basilica in Bruges, Belgium. Originally built in the 12th century as the chapel of the residence of the Count of Flanders, the church houses a venerated relic of the Holy Blood allegedly collected by Joseph of Arimathea and brought from the Holy Land by Thierry of Alsace, Count of Flanders. Built between 1134 and 1157, it was promoted to a minor basilica in 1923.

The 12th-century basilica is located in the Burg square and consists of a lower and upper chapel. The lower chapel dedicated to St. Basil the Great is a dark Romanesque structure that remains virtually unchanged.

The venerated relic is in the upper chapel, which was rebuilt in the Gothic style during the 16th century and renovated multiple times during the 19th century in Gothic Revival style.



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The gothic town hall dates from 1376. It was one of the first monumental town halls in the Low Countries.

In the front facade are six gothic windows. On the front are also displayed the crests of the cities and villages that were under administrative rule from Bruges.

There are 48 niches for statues. The original statues (biblical figures and representations of counts of Flanders) were demolished during the aftermath of the French Revolution. Their 19th century replacements have since been changed for more modern versions.



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In the entrance hall a large staircase leads to the so-called Gothic Hall (1386-1401).
The hall was decorated in 1895 with neo-gothic wall paintings that illustrate the most important events in the history of Bruges.

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The Burg square is really a showcase of different European architectural styles.
Next to the gothic town hall stands the Old Civil Registry in renaissance style dating from 1534-1537 (below).

The decorative statues were also smashed to pieces in 1792, but later renovated. The bronze statues represent Justice, Moses and Aaron. Since 1883 the building is used as Peace Court.


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The bridge across the alley which runs beside the Registry (left).


In Academiestraat stands the Oud Tolhuis - the Old Customs House - dating from 1477 (below). Merchandise was inspected here. It was remodelled in the 19th century and now houses the city's library of 100,000 volumes and 600 manuscripts, the latter including 13th and 14th century missals.


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The mediaeval lodge, Poortersloge, of the citizens of Bruges (left and below).
In order to be able to work, or trade in the city during the Middle Ages one had to acquire citizenship. Membership of the Poortersloge was, in point of fact, restricted to the city's richest and most powerful citizens.

On one of the walls is a statue of a bear (see below) known locally as "the bear of the lodge" . According to folklore, the founder of the city encountered this bear when he first came to this site looking for a convenient place to start a new settlement. This bear is regarded as the city's first inhabitant!

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