City Tour 1: Church tour with Benoit Kervyn, Religious Heritage Consultant, Bruges
Bruges is well known as a city with a rich ecclesiastical history. On this walk, Benoit Kervyn, religious heritage consultant of the city of Bruges, will take you on a guided tour of three of the most fascinating highlights.
The tower of the Sint-Salvatorskathedraal (St. Savior’s Cathedral) was built on the remains of a twelfth century Romanesque church, on the site where a chapel once stood as early as the ninth century. The Gothic architecture dates from the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries. The church did not become a cathedral until the nineteenth century, with the reintroduction of the diocese in Bruges. The cathedral abounds with art treasures, including fifteenth century choir stalls, the escutcheons of the knights of the Golden Fleece, murals, mausoleums and painted crypts, sculptures, and paintings by Flemish masters, as well as tapestries, and the original cartoons with the designs for these tapestries.
The group will then visit the Heilig-Bloedbasiliek (Basilica of the Holy Blood). The Romanesque lower chapel is unique mainly for its preserved architecture and its tympanum from ca. 1150. The artworks are confined to a statue of the Virgin Mary (1300), a Holy Sepulcher (1720), and two statues from 1900. The upper chapel has a neo-Gothic interior, a Rococo altar, an eighteenth-century pulpit, and nineteenth-century stained-glass windows based on those produced in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries. We will also visit the treasury of the Holy Blood, a room full of artworks, including five works of arts from the ‘Topstukkenlijst’ (list of masterpieces protected by the Flemish Government).
We then continue our walk to the Sint-Jacobskerk (St. James’s Church). This is a Gothic church with artworks dating from the thirteenth to nineteenth centuries, the lion’s share of which is from the fifteenth to seventeenth centuries. Here too we will find several great masterpieces (Della Robbia, the Master of the Legend of Saint Lucy, Lancelot Blondeel, the Master of the Holy Blood). Other unique pieces that have been preserved here include a number of copper memorial plaques, the tabernacle tower, and the baroque pulpit.
City Tour 2: Bruges as a Literal and Figurative Roundabout in the Sixteenth Century: Cycling Around the Ramparts
The ramparts of Bruges are about 7.5 kilometers long. They were erected as the city’s fortifications in 1127, but with the passage of time they also acquired additional roles. Today, the ramparts are often described as Bruges’s green lungs. Elien Vernackt, project coordinator at Musea Brugge and the Flemish research centre for the arts in the Burgundian Netherlands, will take you on a cycle ride along the ramparts and around the “Egg” of Bruges. This trip, along fortifications that were so key to the city’s urban development – topographically as well as militarily and economically – will also include abundant testimony to Bruges’s past.
Several of the city gates are still standing: gates built both to ward off unwanted visitors and to attract merchants. Participants will also see a number of windmills, the remains of the Water House, the tower known as Poertoren, and the small lake called “Minnewater”. The ramparts helped to define the image that Bruges sought to project as a prosperous mercantile center, as is clear from diverse historical maps. Impervious to the great changes taking place within and beyond the city walls, they remained an invariable presence: an ideal window to a fascinating past.
Elien Vernackt has been working on the project MAGIS Brugge for over five years now, and is a mine of information about the city’s history. She digitized Marcus Gerards’s sixteenth-century map of Bruges and contributed to the database that was built up over it. On this cycling trip she will set out to give you a glimpse of this fascinating history and an impression of sixteenth-century Bruges – along with the priorities of the city’s townspeople in that era so many centuries ago.