Bruges: A Trip to the Middle Ages
Have you seen the movie In Bruges? Or maybe you’ve read about this town in the books of famous Georges Rodenbach, a Belgian Symbolist, poet and novelist. Everyone who’s dreaming of feeling the real spirit of Middle Ages should visit Bruges. Bruges has managed to keep its original image for the last eight centuries. Fast moving 21st century runs nearby, but it doesn’t break into this wonderful kingdom of passed ages.
You’ll find brick houses built in the 15th century, Gothic temples, towers and spires, pinwheels and figurines on rooftops, humpback bridges. But there’re no shopping-malls, skyscrapers, public advertisement or other sights of modern urban lifestyle. Narrow and cosy streets illuminated with the street lights, wide squares, wind mills, carriages with horses, white swans in the numerous channels of the town, boat sightseeing tours – these are the things which attract people from all over the world to this beautiful town. They say, to feel the atmosphere of the town you’d better see it from the boat. In this case you’ll find out the romance of the town channels, looking at the mirror of their deep waters which shows the reflection of yellow-red-and-blue houses and a deep blue sky.
The town was first mentioned in history in the 7th century. In the 14th-15th centuries, Bruges achieved its peak. It became the richest trading centre of Northern Europe, the head-quarter of the Hanseatic League. The Zwin River connected the town with the sea developing the sea trade, the first commodity exchange appeared. The town is also the birth place of the Flemish art school. But then hard times come to the town. The channels began to shallow and the centre of the Hanseatic League was transferred to Antwerp. The town fell into a deep sleep for 400 years. It woke up only at the end of the 19th century. The government and the citizens have decided to keep the traditional for the town spirit of Middle Ages. Today, the government takes care of the chosen look of the town. Something has remained untouched but something needed to be reconstructed. People have a very careful attitude with their past here.
In the middle of the city there’s Market Square with Belfort Tower – the symbol of Bruges. The tower is decorated with 47 bells, which measured the time many years ago. They also informed people about the enemy’s approaching, about the working day beginning and its ending. The bells called people to gather on the square for the town council or to listen to the news and rules of the government. 366 stairs lead to the top of the tower, where the viewpoint is located. Everyone, who visits it, is rewarded with a fantastic sight of the town. Ancient buildings and the sculpture complex of the national heroes Pieter de Coninck and Jan Breydel are situated nearby.
You can’t help noticing a beautiful façade of the town City Hall of the 14th while visiting Burg Square, for more than 7 centuries it houses the town government. You can see the Basilica of the Holy Blood, which consists of two parts. Its highest tower keeps a great relic – a bulb with blood drops of Jesus Christ. A legend says that the count of Flanders Thierry of Alsace brought these drops in the 12th century after a Crusade.
The Church of Our Lady built between the 12th and the 14th centuries is beautifully decorated with lots of works of art. One of the main works of art is Madonna and Child. This is one of very few the statues of Michelangelo situated beyond the territory of Italy. You can also get acquainted with the furniture and sculptures collection at the Gruuthuse Museum, the most valuable paintings of Flemish artists are situated in the Groeningemuseum.
Bruges is the town filled with the spirit of Middle Ages. You can have a quiet walk along its narrow and cosy streets, watch the bright and colourful houses which look like gingerbread ones. You can also go boating along the charming town channels. And then you’ll see why people say “Bruges is the place where the time has stopped”.
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