Bruges historic sites and buildings worth visiting

Nestled in the heart of Flanders, Bruges stands as a testament to medieval splendor. The city, often referred to as the “Venice of the North,” boasts a wealth of historic buildings and sites that weave a narrative of its rich past.

From the bustling Markt, where the iconic Belfry of Bruges presides, to the serene confines of the Princely Beguinage Ten Wijngaerde, Bruges invites visitors to stroll through its cobbled streets and delve into centuries of history.

The Burg Square, adorned with landmarks like the Bruges City Hall and the Provinciaal Hof, whispers tales of political and administrative prominence. The Cranenburg House and Huis ‘t Schaep, both steeped in architectural legacy, beckon enthusiasts of bygone eras.

As we embark on a journey through Bruges, this article will unravel the captivating stories behind these historic gems, offering a glimpse into the city’s enduring charm and cultural heritage.

If you want to read about the historic catholic churches of Bruges, or about the best history museums to visit here, we have other articles for you.

A brief history of Bruges

Bruges, has a rich history dating back to prehistoric times. Bronze Age and Iron Age settlements existed before medieval city development. In the 1st century BC, fortifications were erected post-Julius Caesar’s conquest to safeguard against pirates.

The Franks later administered the region as the Pagus Flandrensis. Viking incursions in the 9th century led to fortified structures. Early medieval habitation began in the 9th and 10th centuries on the Burgh terrain.

By 1089, Bruges became the capital of the County of Flanders, receiving its city charter in 1128. Walls and canals were constructed, and the city gained autonomous administration by the 12th century. The strategic location at the crossroads of trade routes fueled its prosperity.

The Bourse, likely the world’s first stock exchange, emerged in 1309. Foreign merchants, including the Genoese, Castilian wool merchants, and Basques, flocked to Bruges, expanding its trading zones. Social upheavals and the Bruges Matins in 1302 marked its history.

Around 1500, the Zwin channel silting began, leading to Bruges’ economic decline. Antwerp surpassed it, and despite efforts, Bruges faded in importance. The lace industry thrived in the 17th century, but the city struggled economically.

The Burg in Bruges at the end of the 17th century - painting by Meunincxhove
The Burg in Bruges at the end of the 17th century – painting by Jan Baptist van Meunincxhove

In the late 19th century, Bruges became a tourist destination, drawing visitors like British and French tourists. The city experienced a revival after World War II, with restoration projects and a surge in tourism.

Designated European Capital of Culture in 2002, Bruges continues to attract millions of tourists annually, preserving its medieval charm while embracing modernity.

The Markt

The Markt on Google Earth
The Markt on Google Earth

The Markt, or Market Square, stands at the heart of Bruges, covering approximately 1 hectare and featuring the iconic 12th-century Belfry on its southern side.

This central square has drawn crowds since the 10th century, hosting the city’s first international annual fair around 1200. Initially, small wooden buildings housed merchants’ goods, with a larger structure built around 1240.

A devastating fire in 1280 led to its reconstruction in stone from 1291 to 1296, accompanied by the construction of the Waterhall on the square’s east side for boat unloading and storage.

Fish trading commenced on the square in 1396, with a dedicated fish market on the north side, near St. Christopher’s Church. In 1709, an iron fish market was erected and later moved to the Braamberg in 1745. The square also witnessed major events, jousts, tournaments, and executions, attracting sizable audiences.

Renamed “Markt” in 1936, the square underwent extensive renovations in 1995–96, transforming into a mostly traffic-free area, conducive to celebrations.

Notable structures include the Belfry and the Provincial Court, originally the Waterhall, rebuilt in a neo-Gothic style after a fire in 1878. The square holds historical significance, with Archduke Maximilian imprisoned at no. 16 in 1488, now a café.

At its center stands a statue honoring Jan Breydel and Pieter de Coninck, key figures in the Battle of the Golden Spurs in 1302, unveiled in 1887.

The Burg Square

The Burg Square on Google Earth
The Burg Square on Google Earth

Burg Square, a historic square and former fortress in Bruges, stands as one of the city’s principal squares.

Originally fortified with walls and entrance gates, the Burg is among the oldest sections of the city center. Initially covering one hectare, Count Arnulf I of Flanders expanded the fortress in the 10th century, creating a formidable administrative center.

The western side of the square housed Steen Castle, a residence for the Counts of Flanders from the 11th to the 13th century. The castle church, dedicated to Our Lady and Saint Donatian, stood to the north within the fortifications.

The square served a dual purpose, with the southern part fulfilling civic functions and the northern part serving religious needs. Saint Donatian’s Church became a cathedral when Bruges became a diocese in 1559.

The cathedral’s demolition in 1799 doubled the square’s size to approximately 1.1 hectares, surpassing the Markt in size but maintaining a division into two distinct areas.

Today, Burg Square is surrounded by historic structures such as the former Manor of the Franc of Bruges, the former Civil Registry, the City Hall, the Basilica of the Holy Blood and Saint Basil Chapel, and the former Provostry of Saint Donatian.

Notably, the cellars of the Crowne Plaza Hotel still contain remnants of the foundations of Saint Donatian’s Cathedral, offering glimpses into the square’s historical layers. A connecting street, Burgstraat, links Burg Square with Philipstockstraat.

The Bruges City Hall

Bruges City Hall – ink and watercolor
Bruges City Hall – ink and watercolor

The City Hall (Dutch: Stadhuis) of Bruges, stands as a significant architectural marvel and serves as the administrative center of the city.

Constructed between 1376 and 1421 in a late-Gothic monumental style, it ranks among the oldest city halls in the former Burgundian Netherlands. Situated on Burg Square, the heart of Bruges, it occupies the site of the former fortified castle.

After a fire damaged the Belfry in 1280, the old Ghyselhuus, serving as the meeting place for the city council, was replaced in 1376 by a purpose-built council building. Count Louis laid the foundation stone, entrusting the project to Jan Roegiers.

Completed in 1421, the City Hall reflects the city’s economic and political might during Bruges’ population peak of over 37,000. The stone facade, with its repeating niches, influenced city halls in Brussels, Ghent, Leuven, and Oudenaarde.

The statues on the facade, destroyed during the French Revolution, were replaced, with some authentic pieces now housed in the city museum. Restored by Louis Delacenserie and Jean-Baptiste Bethune from 1895 to 1905, the interior boasts a Gothic Hall with a double-vaulted timber ceiling, depicting New Testament scenes, prophets, and saints.

Mural paintings by Albrecht De Vriendt narrate Bruges’ history, complemented by 19th-century neo-Gothic embellishments. The 1766 stone vault was replaced by a historical timber structure, marking a chapter in the City Hall’s enduring legacy.

The Belfry of Bruges

The Belfry of Bruges (Dutch: Belfort van Brugge) stands as a medieval bell tower in the heart of Bruges, serving as a significant symbol of the city.

Belfry of Bruges in Markt Square – colorful digital painting
Belfry of Bruges in Markt Square – colorful digital painting

Originally constructed around 1240 on the Markt (market square), the belfry played various roles, housing a treasury and municipal archives, while also serving as an observation post to detect fires and potential threats.

Following a devastating fire in 1280, the tower underwent substantial reconstruction, losing the city archives in the process. The octagonal upper stage, added between 1483 and 1487, featured a wooden spire adorned with an image of Saint Michael.

Unfortunately, a lightning strike in 1493 destroyed both the spire and the bells. Though a wooden spire briefly replaced it, it succumbed to flames in 1741, leaving the current building slightly shorter. The tower leans 87 centimeters to the east and boasts a stone parapet added in Gothic Revival style in 1822.

A famous poem by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, “The Belfry of Bruges,” reflects the tower’s rich history. Visitors can ascend its narrow, steep staircase, comprising 366 steps, to enjoy panoramic views from the 83 m (272 feet) high tower.

Designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1999 as part of the Belfries of Belgium and France, the belfry continues to be a central feature of Bruges’ historic centre.

The tower’s bells, which have regulated city life for centuries, include a carillon installed in the 16th century, providing a musical element to the city soundscape.

The Burgher’s lodge

The Burgher’s Lodge (De Poortersloge) located on Jan van Eyckplein, played a significant role in the late Middle Ages, focusing on international trade.

Constructed between ca. 1395 and 1417, the Poortersloge was a meeting place for Bruges’ commercial elite, providing a vantage point to observe incoming sea vessels.

The Guild of the White Bear, a chivalric jousting society founded around 1380, once occupied the lodge. Its shield-bearing bear mascot, ‘Beertje van de Loge,’ remains featured on Bruges’ coat of arms.

As The White Bear declined, the city became the owner of the Poortersloge, closely involved for decades.

Throughout history, the lodge housed various groups, including the fencing guild of St. Michael in the 16th century and the literary society of the Holy Spirit in the 17th century.

The building underwent reconstruction after a fire in 1755, with subsequent modifications. The 19th century saw additions and alterations, contributing to its present-day appearance.

On July 9, 1974, the Poortersloge, along with 75 other buildings in Bruges, gained protection as a monument. In 2012, the National Archives moved to new buildings, and the city of Bruges regained ownership in 2014. By the end of 2016, the lodge found new purpose as an exhibition space for contemporary art.

Hof Bladelin

The Hof Bladelin, constructed in 1435, served as a branch of the De’ Medici banking family from Florence by 1466. Pieter Bladelin, advisor to Philip the Good, was among the wealthiest in the Burgundian Netherlands. His residence in Bruges became De’ Medici’s property in 1472 and passed through various hands.

In 1816, Ysembrandt leased it to Priest Leon De Foere, who later purchased and established a lace school. The complex, managed by the Sisters of Our Lady of Seven Sorrows, was associated with educational and cultural activities for over a century.

The Bladelin Hof in Naaldenstraat, Bruges, transports visitors to 15th-century Burgundian Bruges with its enclosed courtyard and Gothic tower, showcasing Pieter Bladelin’s wealth. The main entrance features corbels depicting scenes related to Bladelin’s responsibilities.

The courtyard includes a unique Gothic tower, testimony to the builder’s prosperity. Two medallions in 1469, featuring portraits of Lorenzo De’ Medici and Clarisse Orsini, commemorate their marriage.

The chapel, dating back to 1832, displays a late-classical style with features such as a coffered ceiling, marble columns, and frescoes by J. Paelinck. The charming chapel O.L.Vrouw-Hemelvaart, inspired by the Roman church of St. Agnes Outside the Walls, exhibits a brick structure with a slate gabled roof, small roof turret, and Doric and Ionic columns.

The historical rooms boast beams featuring coats of arms, and the Roman hall has 16th-century Mannerist paintings. The chapel features a coffered ceiling with flower motifs, a gallery with a brass balustrade, grisailles by J. Paelinck, and a Hooghuys organ. The stained glass windows from 1904 are by Jules Dobbelaere.

The Provinciaal Hof

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The Provinciaal Hof, a neo-Gothic masterpiece situated on Bruges’ Markt (main square), once served as the assembly venue for the Provincial Government of West Flanders.

The building’s history traces back to 1294 when the Waterhalle, a grand port central point, was erected. As boat access waned, it was replaced in 1787 by a neoclassical structure.

Following a fire in 1878, architects Louis Delacenserie and René Buyck crafted a neo-Gothic successor starting in 1887, completed in 1920. Initially hosting provincial government meetings, it became primarily ceremonial after 1999 and also accommodates exhibitions.

The neo-Gothic exterior and interior boast intricate details. The central meeting room showcases ten sculptures of royalty by Hendrik Pickery, complemented by murals featuring notable figures from West Flanders.

Throughout the building, sculptures by Hendrik and Gustaaf Pickery, stained glass windows by Jules Dobbelaere, and chandeliers by Edward De Vooght adorn the space. A rich collection of paintings, including works by Joos de Momper, Jan Van de Putte, and Jan Baptist van Meunincxhove, along with pieces from the Romantic era, further enrich the Provinciaal Hof’s cultural significance.

Despite a 2012 consideration to sell the building by the Federal Government, protests from the Provincial Government, the primary user, helped retain this architectural gem.

Saint Sebastian’s Guild

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The Saint Sebastian’s Guild, a more than 600-year-old archers’ guild located in Carmersstraat, traces its roots to the 14th century when it became a significant meeting place for the urban bourgeoisie, functioning as both a military and recreational organization.

In 1454, the guild settled on a property on Rolweg, a donation from Pieter II Adornes, a prominent city patrician and co-founder of the Jeruzalemkerk, to his brother Jacob Adornes, the guild’s headman.

By 1572, the guild acquired Lombaertsheester in Carmersstraat, where it remains today. The buildings underwent late Gothic expansions in the 17th century and extensive neogothic restoration around 1900 by Louis Delacenserie. Ongoing restoration work maintains the complex as a repository for the guild’s art collection and archives.

Named after Saint Sebastian, the guardian against sudden death, the guild’s central activity, gaaischieten, evolved into four disciplines: lying whip at 18 m, standing whip at 30 m, target at 25 m, and target at 60 m.

Originating in the early 14th century, the guilds gained political recognition and legal personality, symbolizing urban power.

The Saint Sebastian’s Guild uniquely boasts a history of over six centuries, with its archery range associated with notable historical figures and royal connections.

The Princely Beguinage Ten Wijngaerde

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The Princely Beguinage Ten Wijngaerde, the sole surviving beguinage in Bruges, transformed its west side into the Monasterium De Wijngaard for Benedictine nuns in 1927.

Established around 1240, the beguinage gained independence in 1245 under Countess Margaretha II. Flourishing with Dominican support, it faced persecution in 1311-1318 but thrived thereafter.

The 16th century brought challenges during the Calvinist Republic, damaging the church in 1584 but restoring it later.

In the 17th century, supported by the Church, the beguines focused on contemplative life, attracting wealthier girls. The 18th century marked stability and property acquisition.

Jozef II’s decree in 1796 didn’t affect the beguines, and they integrated into municipal almshouses during French rule. Through political changes, financial struggles, and a declining community, the 20th century saw efforts to adapt. The Daughters of the Church congregation was established in 1927, renting empty houses after restoration.

In 1974, the complex became city property, leading to restoration. In 1998, UNESCO recognized the beguinage. The complex includes the Beguinage Church and 30 houses from the 16th-18th centuries, accessible via the Wijngaardbrug.

The portal, built in 1776, features Saint Elizabeth of Hungary. The church, dedicated to her, dates back to 1245, surviving a fire during Calvinist rule. Restoration occurred in 1990-1991.

Ter Doest Abbey

Ter Doest Abbey, located in Lissewege, a district of Bruges, West Flanders, was originally a Benedictine abbey founded in 1106 by Lambert, lord of Lissewege.

In 1175, it joined the Cistercian order as a daughter house of Ten Duinen Abbey in Koksijde. The abbey played a significant role in dyke construction, land reclamation, and the wool trade in the coastal areas of Flanders, Zeeland, and Holland.

Saint Thorfinn, an exiled bishop of Hamar in Norway, sought refuge at Ter Doest after opposing King Eric II of Norway. He died in the abbey in 1285. During the Battle of the Golden Spurs in 1302, lay brother Willem van Saeftinghe fought valiantly and, in a revolt in 1308, killed the cellarer and severely injured the abbot.

In 1624, Ter Doest merged with Ten Duinen and subsequently moved to Bruges in 1627. The abbey faced dissolution during the French Revolution in 1796. The surviving structure is the impressive tithe barn, constructed in 1250, measuring 50 meters in length and over 30 meters in height.

While the vast church with three aisles was destroyed by Calvinists in 1571, some structures endure, including the abbey farm ‘t Groot Ter Doest, built in 1632, an octagonal chapel from 1687, and a monumental porch dating back to 1662.

The Old Civil Registry

Situated on Burg Square in Bruges, the Old Civil Registry stands as one of the oldest Renaissance buildings in Flanders, nestled between the Manor of the Franc of Bruges and the City Hall.

Completed in 1537, this historic structure served as the residence for the Civil Registrar, a position of great importance within the city.

Constructed entirely from natural stone, the facade of the Civil Registry is a masterpiece of Renaissance architecture, adorned with intricate carvings. The bronze statues, crafted by Bruges sculptor Hendrik Pickery in 1883, further enhance the building’s artistic allure.

Throughout its history, the Civil Registry has undergone meticulous restoration efforts. The first, conducted from 1877 to 1881 by city architect Louis Delacenserie, aimed to revive the original 16th-century grandeur. Subsequent restorations in 1980 and 2001 focused on facade strengthening, cleaning, and the restoration of the building’s vibrant colors.

Designated as a protected monument in 1942 and recognized as an architectural heritage site in September 2009, the Old Civil Registry remains a testament to Bruges’ rich history. Today, it continues to serve the City Council of Bruges, embodying the enduring legacy of its past.

The Hospital of St. John

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The Hospital of St. John, once the primary medieval urban institution for the sick, poor, and needy in Bruges, now stands as a museum since 1977.

Exhibiting the building’s history, medical care, soul care, and the monastery community, the museum showcases artifacts and artworks, notably those by Hans Memling. The site includes the medieval hospital building, the church (now Memling Museum), former convents, and the 19th-century hospital. Known as Oud Sint-Jan, the complex houses a congress center, restaurants, and more.

Established around 1150, the Hospital of St. John is one of Europe‘s oldest healthcare institutions. With roots dating back to 1188, it initially lacked a resident physician, relying on priests and lay practitioners for medical duties.

Over time, the site expanded with new infirmaries, a men’s monastery (14th century), and a nuns’ convent (1544). Following the disappearance of the male community in the late 16th century, the Augustinian sisters managed the hospital independently.

In the 19th century, reflecting evolving healthcare standards, new buildings were erected in 1864, designed by Isidoor Alleweireldt. By the mid-20th century, increased demand led to additional constructions.

After the hospital’s services relocated in 1977, the neglected 19th-century buildings faced potential demolition. However, preservation efforts prevailed, and in 1991, 20th-century structures were removed, leaving the 19th-century buildings intact.

Renamed Oud Sint-Jan, the site found new purpose as a cultural venue, hosting congresses, exhibitions, and events. Despite changes in ownership and commercialization, the 19th-century buildings retained their historical value.

In 1990, the City of Bruges assumed ownership, incorporating the museum into Musea Brugge. The collection, including historical paintings and archives, was initially owned by OCMW but has since merged with the city government and the museum operation.

The Cranenburg House

Cranenburg House, also known as Craenenburg, stands as a historic building in Bruges, situated at the corner of the Markt and Sint-Amandsstraat.

Once hailed as the ‘most splendid private residence on the Grote Markt,’ Cranenburg originally featured a wooden façade, immortalized in a drawing by Sanderus in Flandria Illustrata. This wooden front disappeared in 1822, one of the last of its kind in Bruges, making way for a stone lateral façade along the Sint-Amandsstraat side.

In 1955-1956, the subsequent stone façade was replaced by a neogothic screen façade, designed by Bruges architect Maurice Vermeersch. Behind these successive facades, remnants or elements of the original medieval structure, such as cellars and roof trusses, have been preserved, offering potential insights through detailed examination.

Throughout the fourteenth century, the property, owned by Jacob Craenenburgh, served as a grocery store. From at least the late eighteenth century, the grocery trade transitioned into an inn with lodgings and, from 1930 onward, exclusively a dining and drinking establishment.

Cranenburg witnessed historical events, including the counts of Flanders and later the dukes of Burgundy, along with their courtiers, observing tournaments and processions from its windows.

In 1468, Margaretha of York reportedly viewed the knightly games of the Tournament of the Golden Tree, celebrating her marriage to Charles the Bold, from these premises. In 1488, Maximilian of Austria was confined here by the citizens, witnessing the torture and execution of several of his close associates from a window.

Sint-Janshuismolen

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The Sint-Janshuismolen situated on the Kruisvest on the city’s outskirts, is a historic windmill with its roots dating back to the 16th century. The existing corn mill, constructed in 1770, represents the third iteration on the same site and is associated with the Sint-Jan hospital, giving rise to its name.

The mill’s history includes a rebuilding phase around 1550, only to succumb to the elements in 1744. Rebuilt in 1770, the mill was purchased by Pieter Descamp, dean of the baking trade, on behalf of 26 master bakers.

This led to occasional references to the mill as Bakkersmolen, and the name “Sint Aubertus” above the entrance pays homage to the patron saint of the Bruges baking craft.

Eventually passing into the hands of the Gevaert family, the City of Bruges acquired the mill in 1914. Initially slated for demolition, recognition of the historical significance of these fortification mills prompted a restoration effort, culminating in the mill’s return to operation in 1964 under Maurice Vienne and later Jozef de Waele (1967-1993).

In 2001, a comprehensive renovation took place, coinciding with Bruges being named “European Capital of Culture 2002.” Today, the Sint-Janshuismolen is a living testament to Bruges’ milling heritage, open to visitors as part of Musea Brugge.

Oude Steen

The Oude Steen is a medieval building located at Wollestraat 29 in Bruges, preserving a cellar in fieldstone from the 11th or 12th century.

The earliest history of the Oude Steen dates back to the 12th century. Jacob Alverdoe(n), a 14th-century city elite member, was the first known owner. Around 1350, the house initially called ‘Het Grote Steen’ appeared in a rent book.

In 1479, Bruges purchased Oude Steen, enhancing it in 1481 with the acquisition of the cellars facing the Reie. After several owners, the city sold Oude Steen in 1533 to physician Pieter Veerse. In 1820, Pieter Van Waefelghem acquired the property, marking the start of a two-century family ownership.

Monique Van Waefelghem, the last private owner, transferred the property to a family patrimonial company in 1991. In 1994-1995, extensive renovations were conducted, revealing the building’s early history through archaeological investigations.

In 2015, the Museum of Medieval Instruments of Torture opened in the building’s medieval cellars. In 2018, the House of Waffles was established at the front.

Comparisons with structures in Antwerp and Ghent, named ‘Het Steen,’ ‘Gravensteen,’ and ‘Geeraard de Duivelsteen,’ reveal that the term ‘Steen’ often denoted a building used as a prison, suggesting a possible role for Oude Steen in Bruges’ early history.

Castle Ten Berghe

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Castle Ten Berghe, situated near Bruges, traces its origins to a manor house mentioned in a 1267 charter. Originally serving as a manor and fief estate for the Count of Flanders, the castle experienced a tumultuous history, with notable events such as its destruction in 1490 and subsequent rebuilding by Jacques Despaers.

In the late nineteenth century, architect Joseph Schadde transformed the castle into its current neo-Gothic form through extensive enlargement and remodeling. The estate underwent further renovations between 2003 and 2004, adapting it into a contemporary bed and breakfast while preserving its historical charm.

The castle’s historical journey involves ownership transitions, including the Van Rooden, Despaers, and de Croeser de Berges families, with the Caloen de Basseghem family currently holding ownership since the early nineteenth century.

Designated a protected monument in 2013 and listed on the Flemish Inventory of Immovable Heritage in 2009, Castle Ten Berghe stands as a testament to established architectural heritage.

Constructed with orange brick, the castle features a crenellated parapet, narrow towers, and a charming chapel. Spanning a moat, an arch bridge with wrought-iron parapets welcomes visitors to this architectural gem, offering a unique blend of neo-Gothic and neo-Renaissance design elements in its interior decor.

Today, the castle continues its legacy as a bed and breakfast, inviting guests to experience the allure of its historic ambiance.

The old Beursplein

The old Beursplein, located in the heart of Bruges, was once the financial hub of the city during the late Middle Ages.

Positioned at the crossroads of Vlamingstraat, Grauwwerkersstraat, and Academiestraat, the square housed significant structures such as Saaihalle, Huis Ter Beurze, and the Florentine Lodge, remnants of which can still be found.

Named after the Van der Buerse family, who ran a trading business and inn here from the mid-13th century, the square thrived as a gathering place for Italian merchants and other traders in the 14th century.

During the 14th century, Italian and other merchants convened at Beursplein for currency exchange, laying the foundation for early stock trading. Daily rituals, governed by city authorities, involved the opening and closing of trade sessions with bells, ensuring regulated commerce.

The square also served as an information exchange hub for local economic conditions and foreign markets. By 1370, regular notations of exchange rates on various cities were recorded in Bruges, contributing to the development of the first stock exchange.

Over time, Bruges’ significance as an international hub waned, and Antwerp took over as the new trading center, organizing its own exchange. The old Beursplein’s role diminished, marking the end of an era in the late 15th century.

The square witnessed a symbolic event during the conflict between Charles the Bold and King Louis XI, as the Perroen, a symbol of Luik’s privileges, was relocated from Luik to Bruges in 1468.

In the new era, the house Ter Beurze continued as a tavern until the 16th century, undergoing various ownerships and functions, including periods as a café, bank, and radio station headquarters.

The Provostry of St. Donatian

The Provostry of St. Donatian, situated on Burg Square in Bruges, Belgium, is a Baroque edifice erected in the 17th century, serving as the headquarters for the ecclesiastical seigniory of St. Donatian.

Dating back to 1089, during Robert I of Flanders’ reign, deans of St. Donatian’s Cathedral assumed the roles of chancellors, overseeing both the county’s administration and a significant ecclesiastical seigniory.

In 1560, Bruges became the seat of a bishopric, with bishops concurrently holding the positions of dean and chancellor until the late 18th century.

Constructed in 1665-1666, the present building, designed by Antwerp architect Cornelis Verhouven and canon Frederic Hillewerve, reflects the triumphant Baroque style emblematic of the Counter-Reformation.

This style, distinctive of 17th-century Antwerp Baroque architecture, is unique in central Bruges. The Baroque detailing includes Lady Justice above the entrance, with Greek gods of truth, charity, and justice adorning the pediment. Carved by Bruges sculptor Cornelis Gailliaert, the intricate sculptures depict mythological and allegorical elements.

Undergoing expansions and renovations over the years, the provostry initially featured two storeys and nine bays. Subsequent modifications in 1865 and 1907, including extensions and adjustments following the demolition of St. Donatian’s Cathedral, transformed its appearance. Architect Luc Dugardyn conducted extensive restoration from 1972 to 1974, renewing the statues in Lavaux stone.

In 2001, further redecoration took place. Today, the provostry is part of the official residence of the governor of West Flanders.

Huis ‘t Schaep

Huis ‘t Schaep, located at Korte Vuldersstraat 14, 8000 Bruges, represents the merger of two 17th-century residences into a single house. Originally boasting distinctive step gables, the structures underwent a Gothic Revival Style transformation orchestrated by Samuel Coucke.

Huis 't Schaep
Huis ‘t Schaep

Historically, this residence was the abode and workplace of the Coucke family, renowned for crafting exquisite stained glass windows.

The adjacent annexe once housed kilns for firing stained glass, although it presently serves as a storage area for a shoe shop, detached from the primary dwelling.

Retaining its historical charm, the former Coucke family home features three original stained glass windows and a tableau adorned with painted tiles portraying biblical scenes, all crafted by the “Atelier Coucke.”

Recognized as a listed heritage site since 1992, Huis ‘t Schaep has evolved into a versatile space, now functioning as both a private residence and a bed and breakfast (chambre d’hôtes).

This transformation preserves its historical significance while offering a unique accommodation experience in the heart of Bruges.

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