BRUGES (Brugge)

  Picture: the crypt of the Holy Blood chapel     

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Chapel of the Holy Blood
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The chapel of the Holy Blood

This chapel is located in a corner of the Burg square and judging by the richely decorated facade you would not immediately expect a chapel behind it.  This flamboyant facade is actually a 16th century staircase that connects two underlying chapels: the Romanesque Saint-Basiliuschapel and the (neo)gothic Holy Bloodchapel.  The construction of the Basiliuschapel was ordered by count Thierry of Alsace in the 12th century as a double chapel.  Lateron it has been altered several times.  This place of worship is mainly known because of a famous relic that is being saveguarded here: the relic of the Holy Blood, brought from Constantinople to Bruges in the 13th century.  This relic only leaves the chapel once per year for the Holy Blood procession, which finds its origins in the 13th century.  The procession is a colorful cortege displaying biblical and historical scenes and attracts thousands of spectators.

The lower chapel. Through a side door you can enter the lower chapel, also called "the crypt".  The contrast between the interior of the crypt and the facade cannot be greater.  The lower chapel (or Basiliuschapel) has been virtually stripped of all decorative elements.  It is the only part of the whole building that is still in its original form and is the best remaining example of Romanesque architecture in Bruges.  The main space has three aisles, covered by a cross-ribbed vault supported by solid pilars.   In a small space next to the chapel there is a statue of Christ and a tomb.  There is also a remarkable passageway ornated with a tympan depicting the holy baptism.

The upper chapel.  Via the staircase you can access the upper chapel, the basilica of the Holy Blood.  You will be surprised about the difference with the dark lower chapel.  The upper chapel has been rebuilt in neogothic style, is very light and colorfully decorated.  The space has one aisle and a side chapel.  The impressive wooden vault is a real eye-catcher.  Besides the chapel, a small space has been decorated as a museum.  This is the place where the relic of the Holy Blood is being kept in a richly decorated shrine.  Be prepared to queue to have a close look at it.

Location: Burg (corner of the square)

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