A 12th-century Romanesque basilica with a Gothic upper floor, the church houses a venerated relic of Christ -- and a mystery worthy of Indiana Jones. Since 1150, it has been the repository of a fragment of cloth stained with what is said to be the coagulated blood of Christ, wiped from his body after the crucifixion by Joseph of Arimathea. Legend says the cloth was brought to Bruges at the time of the Second Crusade by the Count of Flanders, Diederik van de Elzas, who received it from the Patriarch of Jerusalem. More probably it came from Constantinople, which in 1204 was sacked by the Crusader army of Count of Flanders Baldwin IX. Every year, in the colorful Procession of the Holy Blood on Ascension Day, the relic is carried through the streets, led by the bishop of Bruges and accompanied by costumed residents acting out biblical scenes.
The relic is embedded in a rock-crystal vial, which itself is inside a small glass cylinder adorned with a golden crown at each end. Normally, the relic is kept in a magnificent tabernacle, on which is an image of the "lamb of Christ," on a side altar in the upstairs chapel, but it is brought out regularly so that the faithful can kiss it. In the Basilica Museum, a reliquary created in 1617 by Bruges goldsmith Jan Crabbe has a gem-encrusted hexagonal case to hold the relic and at the top a golden statue of the Virgin. A second reliquary, from 1612, with a lid from 1716, is silver with a golden flower garland added in 1890.
Aside from the relic, the 12th-century basilica is well worth a visit for the richness of its design and its other treasures.
- © Frommer's 2013
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- Highly Recommended 2010
- tel: 050/33-67-92
- Burg 10
- Apr-Sept daily 9:30am-noon and 2-6pm (closed Wed afternoon); Oct-Mar daily 10am-noon and 2-4pm (closed Wed afternoon)
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