We were invited to Bruges for a beer fest and quickly realized there is so much more to Bruges than just good beer. The Basilica of the Holy Blood is a 12th-century basilica located in the Burg Square.
We were referred to it by a friend, and along with the pro-tip of having the Belgian waffles around the corner from it at Chez Albert. The lower chapel dedicated to St. Basil the Great is a dark Romanesque structure. The upper chapel, 19th century in Gothic style, is dedicated to what the basilica is best known as the repository of a venerated phial said to contain a cloth with blood of Jesus Christ. This venerated relic was brought to the city after the 12th century Second Crusade. The relic is paraded every year through the streets of the city. More than 1,600 inhabitants take part in this mile-long religious procession, many dressed as medieval knights or crusaders.
We visited the Basilica and it is a must see. You can view the relic (the blood of Christ) that is under constant guard by a parishioner. The phial, made of rock crystal and dating back to the 11th or 12th century, was a Byzantine perfume bottle made in the area of Constantinople. It was never opened since its arrival in Bruges. Its neck is wound with gold thread and its stopper is sealed with red wax. The phial is encased in a glass-fronted gold cylinder closed at each end by coronets decorated with angels. The date “MCCCLXXXVIII die III maii” (May 3, 1388) is engraved on the frame. They would not allow pictures so here is one from the Internet.
Here are more photos taken inside the church.
We did some night shots as well of the square where you can see both the Basilica of the Holy Blood and the Bruges City Hall. What is interesting is how they are joined at the corner and aside from the change in facade it is difficult to discern that the City hall is actually a functioning government building versus part of the Basilica itself. However, easier to understand if you know the history of the building. The Bruges City Hall is one of the oldest city halls in the entire Netherlands region. Back in the day it was a former fortified castle in the centre of Bruges. The city itself was part of a castle and the canals built around the city enabled trade and traffic as well as security. I was told the city was also surrounded by large walled defensive positions similar to what we saw in Rottenburg and Trier. Although, I have not done the research to confirm.
The Belfry of Bruges (Belfort) is a medieval bell tower in the center of Bruges, Belgium. The city’s most prominent symbol, the belfry formerly housed a treasury and the municipal archives, and served as an observation post for spotting fires and other danger. It was featured in the movie “In Bruges” with Colin Ferral. After paying a small entry fee, we walked up the narrow and steep staircase of 366 steps that lead to the top of the 83 m (272 feet) high building. At the top of the tower there are 47 bells. At the time of our ascent they were being played by a gentleman who sits in a room about half way up the tower. He was sitting at what looked like a piano but the keys themselves were more levers than keys. On the same level was a giant 8 ft in diameter drum with notches in it that I assume played songs with the bells as it spun keying the same levers when the man was not at the helm.
This was a short trip we were there for the annual Belgian Beer Festival which of course was a great time. We stayed at a very amazing place called the Casselbergh Grand hotel. It had an amazing view of a portion of the canal around the city. The bar area was to die for and Alicia spent some time there snapping a few photos of the decor.
One other suggestion is to eat at the Eetkroeg In’T Nievw Museum.
It is definitely off the beaten path but worth the walk. We were there in early February and both agreed that Bruges may need a second visit mostly because there were no leaves on the trees. If you look at pictures on the internet of the canals they are pretty awesome in the spring or fall. I do hope to go back again.