One morning when the summer was waning and autumn was rising in the Northern hemisphere, I went to Bruges (pronounced something like Broozsh), with a friend of mine. It was a spontaneous decision to go there, taken just on the previous evening, after having spent the day in Brussels. We were deliberating between Bruges and Ghent and then decided for Bruges.
Now Bruges has had human settlements since pre-historic times but it’s official mention as Bruggas is in the 9th century. It became a very important place of commerce due to it’s connection with the sea. For more details you can refer to Wikipedia. In this post, I will tell you about what is not there on Wikipedia, all that I learnt on taking a walking tour of the city with Nick :-).
So we started the tour from the center of the city in front of the statues of Jan Breydel and Pieter de Coninck, the leaders of a violent uprising against the French in 1302. The interesting part is who they were and how and what they did. Jan Breydel was a butcher and Pieter de Connick was a weaver. The local Flemish population was fed up of the French imposing themselves and their exorbitant taxes on them. So one Sunday morning, Jan and Pieter decided to do something about it. They went from door to door and when the door was opened, they greeted the owner with “Goeije morn”. If the owner didn’t pronounce it the way it is in Flemish, Jan and Pieter understood it was a French person and they immediately killed them. This way they killed almost all of the French population in the city in one morning (Bruges Matins). There were repercussions later of course, but the two thus, became heroes of the Flanders region and are still remembered as patriots of Belgium.
The second stop was at the main church Sint Salvator’s cathedral. The legend goes that there was once a weaver who was wrongly accused of killing a merchant. He was thrown into the jail. But then one night, Baby Jesus came in his dream and gave him a letter that said that he was innocent. He woke up and found the letter beside him. That got him acquitted. So as a gratitude offering, he and his family commissioned an art work for the church. It shows Mary and Jesus with an ink-pot!
Then after some more walking around and learning some other things, we reached a palatial mansion. It belonged to a spice merchant who had quite a monopoly on the spice trade. Luis of Groot Haus (Great House) became a friend of the Duke of Burgundy – Philipp the Good. The Duke initiated him into the Order of the Golden Fleece which was created actually for the a chosen set of knights. The members are above the regular laws of the land somehow and cannot be tried in a regular court as far as I understood Nick. I was most surprised at hearing the name of Nikolas Sarkozy as a member of the order! But then so was the wife-killing crazy king Henry the VIII of England. The symbol of the order is a sheepskin suspended from a jeweled collar and each member wears it as a necklace. This symbol can still be seen on the top of the entrance of that house of the spice merchant. The Emperor of Japan lost it in a hotel in Madrid. I wonder who is using the symbol now and for what!
Hope you enjoyed the first part of the legends of Bruges. Stay tuned for more.