CODART, Dutch and Flemish art in museums worldwide

Brugse Vrije, Musea Brugge

Liberty of Bruges


In the fourteenth century, the administrators of the castellany known as the Brugse Vrije (“Liberty of Bruges”) commissioned a building on Burg Square, which took shape in the period 1434–1440. In a later expansion, from 1520 onwards, a large court of justice and a luxurious aldermen’s chamber were added. The richly elaborated details showcase the city’s power. Today, the building no longer has an administrative function, but its interior has largely been preserved.

The pièce de resistance, in the aldermen’s room, is the monumental fireplace (1528–1538) designed in honor of Charles V by Lancelot Blondeel. The imposing structure reaches right up to the ceiling, with oak statues and reliefs illustrating the emperor’s family tree along the top. The marble fireplace below displays reliefs in alabaster by Guyot de Beaugrant. The entire room is adorned with embedded tapestries and paintings, including a sixteenth-century copy of the Judgement of Cambyses, the original of which hangs in the Groeninge Museum.

The Brugse Vrije is administered by Musea Brugge.

Nadia Vangampelaere, Curator of Sculpture, Furniture and Ceramics (November 2022)