Burges holds several incredible churches that don’t seem to be as well known as what they should be. This may soon change with the recent release of the Hollywood blockbuster, “The Monuments Men.” The George Clooney movie not only sheds light on the Belgian towns of Bruges and Ghent, but the story revolves around the monument men struggling to find the single most important piece of art, the famous Michelangelo’s Madonna and Child sculpture that sits in Bruges Church of Our Lady.
This piece of art is the only Michelangelo statue to leave Italy in Michelangelo’s lifetime and is today one of the few that can be seen outside Italy. Michelangelo worked on this sculpture in 1504 when he was also working on his famous statue of David. Unfortunately, when we visited, (Spring, 2014) the church was going through the process of a renovation and was in a sad state of distress. We still were able to see the Madonna and Child, but it was the only part of the church worth seeing.
I kicked myself for not watching the Monuments Men prior to going to Belgium, as I had no idea the movie was so much about this country. Still, it was fun to watch after returning and being able to point out all the places we had been and things we had seen.
“Many people don’t realize that Michelangelo’s ‘Madonna and Child’ is in Bruges”– Renaat Landuyt, mayor of Bruges.
The second church in Bruges that is a must see is the Basilica of the Holy Blood. This church was built in 1150 by a crusader to house a vial of the drops of Christ’s blood that he brought back from Jerusalem. It is said that the old, dried blood suddenly turned to liquid, and it did this every Friday for the next two centuries. This relic turned Bruges into a pilgrimage hot spot for the next two centuries. In 1325, this phenomenon stopped and the blood has been dry ever since.
This church is uniquely designed, as it is wedged between two other buildings. It has an upper and lower chapel and in order to get to the upper, you will walk up a winding curved circle hall to the entrance. It is truly a unique layout that I have never seen in any other church. The lower chapel is Romanesque which is one of my favorite styles. The top chapel is full of bright, vibrant colors, as it was changed from its originally Romanesque to Neo-Gothic style in the 19th century. The church is shown in the background of my biking picture below. It is the building wedged in the corner of the two.