Day Four: Michelangelo, the Holy Blood, Carillons and Beer in Bruges

Monday, the 17th of July, was a great day in Bruges. We had a light breakfast at our hotel before making our way to the Church of Our Lady, the residence of one of Michelangelo’s greatest sculptures, Madonna and Child (aka, the Bruges Madonna). It is the only one of Michelangelo’s sculptures to leave Rome. In 1504, while taking a break from his David, he carved this gorgeous work (which was featured prominently in the movie, The Monuments Men). After spending time with the Madonna, we walked through the Gothic church whose stained glass, like so many other great churches in the region, was destroyed by the Protestant iconoclasts.

Every hotel has had spiral staircases… usually much tighter than this. They are also common in other places we tour and visit.

Church of Our Lady

Post card view with the Bell Tower in the background.

Canal-side en route to see the Bruges Madonna.

And another canal view. Amazing!

The exquisite Bruges Madonna

Detail of the Michelangelo Madonna

Looking through the choir of the Church of our Lady to the beautiful altarpiece. The tombs of the last rulers of Bruges are before the altar: Mary of Burgundy and her father, Charles the Bold

We then retraced our steps to visit the Basilica of the Holy Blood, a double-decker church built in ~ 1150 by a brave crusader by the name of Derrick of Alsace. The Legend states that in return for his bravery in defending Jerusalem from the Muslims, the Patriarch of Jerusalem gave him several drops of Christ’s blood which had been washed from his lifeless body by Joseph of Arimathea. When he returned home, he donated it to the city of Bruges and the Holy Blood is still located in this church built for its safe-keeping. We were able to stay for an 11:30 a.m. service for the Veneration of the Holy Blood. The Holy Blood was removed from it’s silver tabernacle and placed on a canopied throne so that those in the service could pass by and lay their hands above it while saying a short prayer. Actually, it was a very moving service.

The unchurch-like appearing Basilica of the Holy Blood.

The upstairs church.

The actual lead case which protected the vial of Holy Blood from destruction by the Protestants.

Veneration of the Holy Blood: The vial is contained within this glass case for the service.

The line of worshippers waiting for their turn to pray with their hands above the Holy Blood of Christ.

From the Basilica of the Holy Blood we walked back past the Church of our Lady to the De Halve Mann Brewery, where we had lunch in the courtyard (okay, it wasn’t exactly lunch, it was Belgian Waffles with whipped cream. Close enough!). After devouring that scrumptious treat we joined with several others for a 45-minute tour of the brewery, led by a rather funny gentleman who served as our guide. At the end of the tour, of course we were offered a free brew. They produce two main brands of beer, Brugse Zot and Straffe Hendrik. Cindy and I are not big beer drinkers, but we enjoyed the experience. On the way back to the hotel, we piled into a crowded boat for a canal cruise, which despite the number of people aboard, was still relaxing.

On the De Halve Maan Brewery Tour.

Four containers of malt at the front. Things I learned: The alcohol content of the beer is determined by the amount of malt used in the production. The color of the beer is determined by how long the malt is roasted prior to use. There is no direct correlation between them.

Vista from the top of the Brewery. The St. Salvator church to the left and the Church of Our Lady to the right.

Our boat tour on the canals.

Our boat guide/driver said that this is the “supermodel home” of Bruges — tall and skinny. 🙂

Hans Memling Statue in Bruges.

In the evening, we made our way to the quaint Bistro in den Wittenkop, a very small Flemish place which served excellent food. Afterwards we made our way to the Bell Tower, which has stood over the Markt since 1300. We sat in the courtyard for a wonderful hour-long carillon concert by musician, Frank Deleu. My favorite was the poignant Liebestod, the closing aria from Wagner’s Tristan and Isolde. Who knew one could be so moved by carillon music? Finally, around 10 p.m., we wandered along more cobblestoned streets back to our hotel. It was a wonderful day.

A lovely dinner at the Bistro in den Wittenkop.

The Bruges Bell Tower which leans 4°. It will likely not fall soon. They’ve been watching it for a couple of hundred years and it hasn’t moved any more. This was taken from the courtyard where we sat to listen to the Carillon concert.

Nighttime views of the canals on the way back from the Carillon concert.

8 thoughts on “Day Four: Michelangelo, the Holy Blood, Carillons and Beer in Bruges

  1. Wow… what beautiful shots of the churches and the canals, day and night. Thanks for sharing, Barry. I look forward to each and every adventure.

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