Day Five: Our Last Day in Bruges

Tomorrow we will leave Belgium and enter the Netherlands. Our last day in Bruges would be spent, primarily, visiting two museums, the Groeninge Museum (pronounced HROON-ih-guh) and the Sint-Janshospitaal Museum. We timed the 3/4 mile walk to the first museum to coincide with its opening at 9:30 a.m. The Groeninge has perhaps the world’s best collection of art produced in the city and its surrounding area. In the 1400s, Bruges was Europe’s most wealthy and cultured city. International known artists set up business in Bruges to produce portraits and altarpieces for merchants across Europe. We were blessed to gaze upon and study magnificent works by Jan Van Eyck, Roger van der Weyden, Hans Memling, and several other Flemish artists.

At the Groeninge Museum: I can’t remember the exact name or artist, but I liked it. Something like: the Triumph of the Arts and Sciences over Ignorance?

Another crazy Bosch Last Judgment from the late 15th century. What an imagination!

Detail from Rogier van der Weyden’s St. Luke Drawing the Virgin’s Portrait, ~1435. (The baby Jesus is extremely excited in anticipation of lunch.) 🙂

Jan van Eyck’s Portrait of Margareta van Eyck, 1439. Jan was 35 when he married the 20-year-old Margareta. This painting was rather revolutionary in that it was a depiction of an ordinary person, not of a saint, king, duke, or pope.

Jan Provost’s Death and the Miser, ~1515. A Bruges businessman strikes a deal with Death. He gives Death a promissory note, trading away a few years of his life for a little more money. The artist’s self portrait is the man on the right warning, as Rick Steves says, “Don’t do it!”

A more modern last supper by Gustave van de Woestyne, 1881-1947

Before visiting the next museum, we wandered a half-mile further to the Begijnhof (pronounced gutturally, buh-HINE-hof), a small secluded community constructed for women of the lay order called, Beguines. These ladies didn’t take the order of a nun, but spent their days in prayer, spinning, making lace, teaching, and caring for the poor. There are no more Beguines, but the houses are inhabited by single religious women with a Benedictine nunnery inhabiting a portion of the compound. At noon, we were treated to observe the nuns entering the church and chant their noon-time prayers.

Beautiful canal view near the entrance of the Begijnhof.

The entrance to the Begijnhof.

Selfie from with the Begijnhof

This Benedictine nun is ringing the bell signaling the beginning of the noon service.

Then, we visited the Sint-Janshospitaal Museum (St. John’s Hospital) which houses various artifacts associated with the 500 year-old hospital, including medical instruments, documents and several visual aids. The hospital has moved to a new location and the old building is now this museum, which, at the end, contains several of Hans Memling’s masterpieces. In medieval times, Bruges was a major pilgrim destination as people from all over Europe traveled to the city to view the Holy Blood of Christ (see yesterday’s post). This included many who were sick and frail and ended up in this hospital. The walk through the medical part was enjoying, but the real treat was standing before the St. John Altarpiece (aka, The Mystical Marriage of St. Catherine) painted in 1474.

A very cool document from the 1300s (or, at least I thought it was) detailing farm earnings of the time. I find it amazing that these things still exist.

A painting by Jan Beerblock (1778) showing the interior of the museum when it was a hospital.

The Anatomy Lesson, 1679

The Saint John Altarpiece, 1474, Hans Memling. (Of course to really appreciate the details of any picture in the blog, click on it to enlarge.)

Diptych of Martin van Nieuwenhove, 1489, Hans Memling

Resting after museum hopping

After returning to our hotel for a little afternoon respite, we had dinner at a nearby restaurant, Tom’s Diner, a cozy little candlelit bistro in a quiet cobbled residential area. We both ordered Tom’s signature dish, his Flemish meatloaf with rhubarb compote. It did not disappoint! Mmmmm. After hunting down a Belgian waffle for dessert, we returned to our room to spend our last night in Bruges.

Dinner at Tom’s Diner

Tom’s delightful Flemish meat loaf with rhubarb sauce. Mmmm!

3 thoughts on “Day Five: Our Last Day in Bruges

  1. Beautifull !!
    How are you dealing with the language barriers in Europe?
    Do enough people speak English to get by?

    • This has been our most English-friendly trip to Europe so far (with the exception of our visit to England, of course.). Virtually everyone speaks English well in Belgium and The Netherlands. We’ve had no problem. We haven’t even had to try to speak Dutch on this trip.

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