12 May, ‘04 Wednesday. Bruges, pop. 116,000. Wow, where to begin. We started out early, about 9:30am and walked to the city about 4 km, just over 3 miles. As we entered the city, we saw they were restoring a complex of homes and businesses from around 1600.
Amazing! We came upon a small church and went inside. It was beautiful and very old. As we entered the city it was like stepping back in time. All the old and ornate buildings with cobbled narrow streets. It took our breath away. Our first stop was St. Savior church. This church was started in the 1400’s and built over 200yrs. It has been remodeled many times and there are no words to describe its beauty. It contains many priceless paintings and tapestries.
The pulpit is carved of oak and very ornate. There is a wonderful statue of God the Father by Quellinus jr. 1679. The gothic choir stalls from 1430 have sculpted seats, with scenes of everyday life. In 1478 the coat of arms of the knights of the golden fleece were placed above the choir stalls. Over whelming! Next we visited a museum of Auguste Rodin sculptures and other 19th century artists. Then on to more art and sculpture, this time by modern artists. We had lunch from a deli, some great sandwiches, olives from an open market and macaroons form the bakery. Yummy! We ate in the Grote Markt, a big square outside the townhall. Then we went to the cathederal of Our Lady c. 1270. This is where tombs of Charles the Bold and Mary of Burgundy are. Also the statue of Madonna and Child by Michelangelo
and The Crucifixion, a painting by Anthony Van Dyck. After this we went to The Bequinage, a community of homes where religious women who did not want to take vows lived and did good deeds. This community dates from the 1500’s. The church St. Elizabeths, was small but had many beautiful paintings, statues and carvings. I have not mentioned the stained glass windows in these churches, huge and very intricate. The older churches we visited in the Netherlands, had most of the art destroyed in the 1500s during the Reformation, so this is the first we’ve seen with the sculptures and paintings intact. We headed back to camp about 3:30 and had some wine and a nap. What a day!