• Superstition

    Superstition, often unnoticed, plays an important role in our daily setting: ‘don’t put your shoes on the table,  that brings bad luck’, ‘touch wood’, ‘avoid black cats’, ‘don’t walk under a ladder’ are just some of the many references to ways of warding off fate, the unknown, the uncertain.

    Even if we don’t believe in it, we see clues about our fate in all kinds of omens. With small actions, we attempt to evoke luck and force a favourable outcome. For example when we go on a trip, accept a new assignment or take part in a competition …

    Superstition starts from a (collective) belief and a tradition handed down, supplemented by our own beliefs.

    • Knock on wood

      In Europe and beyond, knocking on wood is an established ritual with the aim of influencing fate in a positive way. Celtic and Germanic cultures knew the Kotouka ritual, in which druids performed incantations on sacred trees, believing them to be the dwelling places of many gods. Wood was divine and sent away evil spirits.

    • Construction offerings

      In  Roman times construction offerings, keys and grinding stones were hung to poles next to the homes.  That way they protected the homes to evil spirits.

      Supplied by Raakvlak.

    • A silver heart

      A morphological ex-voto has the shape of the part of the body for which healing is requested, in this case the heart.

      Supplied by Erfgoedcel Brugge.

    • Ex-votos

      Objects given to saints as gifts – and placed or hung in the vicinity of a statue of a saint – serve to obtain intercession, beg favours or express gratitude for interventions obtained. They could be everyday utensils, such as the crutch of a cripple who can walk again without aid.

      Supplied by Erfgoedcel Brugge.

    • Legend of Saint Walburga

      Saint Walburga played an important role in the conversion of Germany to Christianity. On her way from England to Germany, she is said to have founded a chapel at Saint Walburga in Bruges. A sacred, healing oil dripped from her bones. When that oil dried up in the nineteenth century, Guido Gezelle, as curate, had a bottle of holy oil brought over from Germany. He did so again in 1870, when he was involved in a large Walburga celebration in Veurne. Even now, a bottle of holy oil stands at the back of the church. The church itself is a very beautiful location.

      Supplied by Bibliotheek Brugge.

    • Miracles

      These three tapestries were probably made by the Augustinian nuns who worked at this hospice. In eighteen scenes, they depict the miracles that took place there thanks to Onze-Lieve-Vrouw ter Potterie (Our Lady of the Pottery). Texts clarify the events depicted. The three tapestries hold particular value for the collective memory. The old devotion to Onze-Lieve-Vrouw ter Potterie thus remains alive and well. The imagery is based on a typologically exceptional and richly illustrated book of miracles from the sixteenth century.

      Supplied by Musea Brugge.

    • Images of saints

      In places of pilgrimage, the faithful could buy all manner of devotional objects at a stand or shop at the back of the church or outside the church: relics, medallions, ex-votos, palm branches, holy water, etc…

      Supplied by Musea Brugge.

    • Satanism in Bruges

      Fantastic story of a priest from Bruges who is presented as a Satanist priest in a novel by writer Joris-Karl Huysmans. In ‘Là-bas’, the writer Durtal is disgusted by the emptiness and vulgarity of the modern world. He seeks relief by turning to the study of the medieval Satanist Gilles de Rais, but then Durtal finds out that Satanism is not simply a thing of the past but has many followers in this day and age as well…

      Supplied by Musea Brugge.

  • Conviction

    A conviction can take the form of activism or incitement to certain (radical) actions. Logic or health are sometimes overlooked because people are acting out of conviction. It can be about self-confidence and self-belief, or about being convinced by someone or something else.

    • For Sama

      Documentary by Waad Al-Kateab and Edward Watts.

      This is the first documentary by 26-year-old Syrian citizen journalist Waad al Kateab. She dedicates the film to her newborn daughter. ‘I want you to understand why your father and I made these choices, to know what we were fighting for.’ Using a simple digital camera, she captures the Syrian uprising against dictator Assad in the rebel stronghold of Aleppo, from its inception to its forced evacuation in late 2016, despite the life-threatening situation and her young motherhood.

    • Iconoclasts

      After years of political unrest, famine and the bloody persecution of dissenters, Protestant preachers were able to convince the people to turn against the Catholic Church. In the process, they destroyed depictions of saints on a large scale. For the Protestants, worshipping and depicting saints was equal to idolatry. Believers were to pray directly to God, without the aid of imagery. Although Bruges’ religious heritage was spared for a long time, in contrast to the rest of the Low Countries, churches and monasteries still had to pay the price during the Calvinist regime from 1578 to 1584. Iconoclasm is still with us today. Consider al-Qaeda and IS destroying ancient heritage in Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria, or the (only partially successful) eradication of ‘old Russia’ by the Bolsheviks. Art and beauty are the victims in the battle for truth.

      Supplied by Musea Brugge.

    • Striving for a new seaport

      In Bruges, people believed in the nineteenth century that the construction of a new seaport would bring about a period of prosperity such as the city had experienced during the Burgundian period. This is best illustrated by the programme for the inauguration festivities for the new port from 22 to 28 July 1907, which included a jousting tournament, an exhibition on the Golden Fleece and an historical procession that was to be the forerunner of the Gouden Boomstoet.

      Supplied by Stadsarchief Brugge.

    • Pilgrims' insignia

      All kinds of insignia that were collected during pilgrimages.

      Supplied by: Raakvlak

    • Plus est en vous

      ‘Plus est en vous’ (‘There is more in you’) is the motto of Louis de Gruuthuse, the most legendary inhabitant of the Gruuthuse Palace (see the portrait of Louis de Gruuthuse). The slogan refers to the Bruges elite’s pursuit of self-exaltation, prestige and social identity, and the pursuit of refinement and perfection by craftsmen and artists.

      An exceptional source is the Gruuthuse manuscript, a reflection of the bourgeois rhetorical culture that was at an unusually high level in Bruges.

      Supplied by Musea Brugge.

    • Hiding places for the Holy Blood

      During Calvinist rule in the late sixteenth century, the relic of the Holy Blood had to be hidden away. This happened at several places in the city, such as the House Perez de Malvenda. At the end of the nineteenth century, commemorative stones with Gezelle’s poems were placed in four places where the Holy Blood had once been hidden.

      Supplied by: Library of Bruges

  • Rituals

    Many rituals have a religious origin and a long history, but we invent new rituals in our modern society too. Rituals add structure to a certain phase in life, provide a sense of connection and are interactive. They can offer a handhold in difficult circumstances. The trust is in the act itself, without necessarily being linked to any particular religion. A group of friends, a family… they come up with their own rituals.

    • The lonely funeral

      ‘The lonely funeral’ is a literary and social project in which poets write a personal poem for lonely deceased people and read it out at the funeral. It is a final salute to people who generally fell by the wayside during their lives and are then buried without the presence of family or friends. There is only the small ritual: the coffin on trestles, the flowers and the poem.

    • Farewell rituals

      In 2020, Bruges Erfgoedcel, Intangible Heritage Workshop, the Diversity Department of the City of Bruges, FMDO, Vormingplus for the Bruges Region and HuisvandeMens Bruges collected stories of people from Bruges with different ideologies on their vision for saying goodbye and the rituals that go with it. They were brought together in the brochure ‘Time for farewell’.

      Supplied by Erfgoedcel Brugge.

    • Carillon

      At the centre of the city is the Belfry where, very early on, swinging bells were installed to break up the day: from the opening and closing of the city gates to the hours when trading in the market was permitted. From 1523, the carillon could play songs automatically and, a little later, Bruges hired a carillonneur… music for everyone! The present instrument dates from 1741 and was cast in Bruges by Joris Dumery.

      Supplied by Concertgebouw Brugge.

    • Phallus cup

      Phallus cup, used for baptising boats (for a good journey).

      Supplied by Raakvlak.

    • Gerard David, Baptism of Christ

      In this triptych (1502-1508), Gerard David masterfully paints the baptism of Christ. Baptism starts from the cleansing function of water. The water possesses the power to wash away sins. Reie originally meant ‘holy water’.

      Supplied by Musea Brugge.

    • God and Lucifer in conversation

      Manuscript 008: this thirteenth-century miniature drawing is part of a convolute (a number of manuscripts in one volume), including a liturgical calendar and a psalter. A psalter or psalm-book is a prayer book containing Old Testament psalms. In the Middle Ages, it was an extremely popular book, used mainly by the clergy during daily prayers. The manuscript, made in Ghent, is beautifully decorated.

      Supplied by Library of Bruges.

    • Ritual nails

      At the archaeological site Haverbilken in Beernem, a nail measuring 25cm in length was found in the central cremation grave (50-100 AD), which was presumably used as a defence against evil spirits.

      Supplied by Raakvlak.

    • Pewter chalice from the grave of a priest

      Pewter chalice from grave VI (Bruges Mariastraat Church of Our Lady), the grave of a priest. The chalice consists of a circular, almost flat foot with above it an almost cylindrical stem (narrowing slightly towards the top). Attached to this, at about half height, is a disc-shaped handle (or nodus), and a bowl (or cuppa) with a hole in it. Some clear rotation ridges can be seen on the outside of the chalice, but there are no decorations or marks. The chalice was covered with a pewter paten, a kind of plate that belongs to the vasa sacra of the liturgical vessels in the Catholic Church. During the Mass, the host is placed on the paten and later broken on it.

      Supplied by Raakvlak

  • Spirituality

    Besides the focus on the religious attitude to life, spirituality also refers here to the belief in a spiritual, incorporeal existence, in spirits or in people who live on after they die. On the other hand, it also refers to the spiritual experience: merging into a greater whole, letting go of daily life and individuality.

    • Monica Restrepo

      To loose something, get it back, and consciously loose it again – 2019

      During a residency in Antwerp, Colombian artist Monica Restrepo made clay imitations from memory, based on some golden religious objects from the Janssens Collection at the MAS in Antwerp. The way the objects were acquired was unknown and the region from which they came was only known to a limited extent. The objects were photographed and later entrusted to the Scheldt in a performance. Among one of the objects was a small house (probably 1800 BC) from the region where Monica Restrepo came from. During the photo shoot, the digital camera miraculously jammed, something the photographer had never experienced before. But it still produced a photo, half black as though a presence was being photographed. Monica Restrepo and the inhabitants of the region where she grew up believe in the existence of spirits in objects and houses, who may be friendly or displeased…

    • Secluded courtyard

      In a devotional box or secluded courtyard, Christ sits on the cold stone. In a paradisical setting, Jesus is surrounded by dried flowers, shells, figures cut out of paper, etc. It is probably the work of a sister from the hospital. ‘A secluded courtyard as a ‘spiritual self-portrait of the religious’’ (P. VANDENBROECK, Hooglied, 1994, p. 99).

      Supplied by Erfgoed Damme.

    • Guild of Holy Imagery

      The Public Library owns a treasure trove of neo-Gothic prayer cards from the presentation albums of the printers Jacques Petyt and Karel Vande Vyvere-Petyt. This family of printers mainly specialised in neo-Gothic lithographic printing (1845-1914).
      The neo-Gothic movement in the nineteenth century changed the cultural and political landscape. During the Second Catholic Congress in Mechelen in 1864, the necessity of distributing good prayer cards was discussed. Thereupon, Guido Gezelle, Adolf Duclos, Joseph Neurath, Louis Grossé and Michael Joseph Buckley founded the ‘Guild of Holy Imagery’. The blossoming of the neo-Gothic in the devotional prints completely penetrated the Bruges chromolithography.
      The ‘saints’ saw an international response.

      Supplied by Library of Bruges.

    • The folk missal

      The publishing company Desclée-De Brouwer was founded in 1877 by the brothers Jules and Henri Desclée and their brother-in-law Alphonse de Brouwer. They were also the managers of the former Gasworks in Bruges. The Desclée brothers also had a printing house, Saint-Jean l’Evangéliste, in Tournai. Mainly religious works, including missals and catechisms, and schoolbooks were printed and published in Bruges. After the Second Vatican Council (1962-1965) and during the second iconoclasm, the use of the hand missal in Flanders declined sharply. That heralded the end of the company.

      Supplied by Library of Bruges.

    • Sisters Carrying the Cross

      The difficult path of monastic life is depicted in the painting ‘Sisters carrying the cross’. It is a story that you read from right to left and, once all the obstacles have been overcome, ends with the upright cross. The tough daily life and the temptations are symbolised by the cross, the trees, the road, etc.

      Supplied by Erfgoed Damme.

    • Last Judgment by Hieronymus Bosch

      Hieronymus Bosch continues to inspire. In the painting ‘The Last Judgement’ at the Groeninge Museum, Christ appears to a sinful world, populated with grotesque characters and naked figures who misbehave or are being tortured. As is often the case with the idiosyncratic Bosch, vice and sin are central. On the side panels, we see the outcome of the Last Judgment: on the left, pious believers may go to a heavenly paradise, while on the right, sinners must go to hellfire.

      Supplied by Musea Brugge.

    • Madonna by Michelangelo

      Few sculptures have as many stories attached to them as the Madonna and Child at the Church of Our Lady. It is the only sculpture by Michelangelo that left Italy during his lifetime. Jean Mouscron, a member of a wealthy family of cloth merchants in Bruges, bought the work from Michelangelo in 1506. In 1514, it was given a place in a sculpted altar in the south aisle of the Church of Our Lady. Several members of the Mouscron family are buried at the foot of the altar. In a document, they state that the statue must never be moved, but history decided otherwise… Napoleon seized the Madonna for his National Museum in Paris, but in 1815, after his defeat at Waterloo, the statue returned to Bruges. During the Second World War, the Madonna was stolen a second time: this time, Hitler wanted her for his large museum in Linz. The Allied Monuments Men rescued the statue, along with many other precious works of art, from the Altaussee salt mines in Austria.

      Supplied by Musea Brugge.

    • Orthodox Church HH. Constantine and Helen

      Open church in historic building, since 1995 orthodox parish of Bruges-East.

      The main objective of the orthodox parish of Sts Constantine and Helen in Bruges is to integrate the orthodox faithful of the region into liturgical life, according to the traditions of the Holy Orthodox Church.

      Supplied by Erfgoedcel Brugge.

    • Paternoster in amber

      Amber is the fossilised resin of prehistoric conifers. The amber found in Bruges comes from the Baltic region. In Bruges, the first mention of paternoster-makers who made their beads from amber was made in 1299. Until 1480, the Bruges guild of paternoster-makers, along with Lübeck, held the monopoly on the amber trade in our regions. Remarkably, the beads of this object have been reconstructed into a bracelet, whereas they were certainly meant to be part of a paternoster.

      Supplied by Raakvlak.

    • Pilgrimages

      Pilgrimages have a spiritual meaning. Since the Middle Ages, Bruges has been an important starting point for two routes to Compostella (including the route via Paris). The Jerusalem Chapel refers to the pilgrimage to the ‘Holy Land’. Jerusalem is also depicted in a dramatic painting by Jan Provoost

      Supplied by Musea Brugge.

    • Polyphony – the music of Bruges' Golden Age

      When one thinks of church music, one immediately thinks of the long-drawn-out sounds of the French-Flemish polyphonists such as Dufay, Obrecht and Richafort. The Low Countries and certainly Bruges were widely associated with high-quality polyphony. Thanks to the excellent trade and diplomatic connections to all corners of the world, the music of Bruges travelled all over Europe, via valuable manuscripts or in the performances of the (sometimes very young) singer-composers themselves.

      In Bruges, music was inextricably linked to social life. The court, the brotherhoods and also parishes and convents competed with each other for the best, the most beautiful, the richest music… because no matter who is listening, God or your neighbours, you don’t earn a good spot in Heaven or on Earth for nothing!

      Supplied by Concertgebouw Brugge.

    • Religious songs and poems by Guido Gezelle

      Guido Gezelle (1830 – 1899) was a Roman Catholic priest, poet and interpreter from Bruges. He wrote a great many fascinating religious poems and songs.  With his work he tried to translate the Christian virtues but just as well he wrote strong political satire where he used a cover name ‘Sponker’. Today there is a Gezelle-walk in the centre where various locations regarding Gezelle are included: The house of Gezelle, the English convent or the parish house at Verversdijk.

      His songs and poems could be an inspiration in combination with one of the Gezelle locations.

      Supplied by Library of Bruges.

    • Ursula Shrine by Hans Memling

      Hans Memling made the Ursula shrine by order of the cloister community of St John’s Hospital, where Saint Ursula was venerated. The wooden reliquary is shaped like a chapel with a saddle roof. The paintings are like the stained glass windows of the sanctuary. Six scenes depict the fantastic story of the pilgrimage of Ursula and her eleven thousand virgins.

      Supplied by Musea Brugge.

    • Temptation of Saint Anthony

      Anthony is seduced in a cave by a woman and terrorised by horrific monsters. The scene is depicted, among other things, on the Triptych of Job by Hieronymus Bosch at the Groeninge Museum. Gustave Flaubert wrote a book about it: ‘La Tentation de Saint-Antoine’.

      Supplied by Musea Brugge.

    • Votive painting

      A votive painting is an expression of the devotion of the patron portrayed in the painting.

      Supplied by Erfgoedcel Brugge.

    • Votive ship

      A votive ship is a model of a ship that is placed at the altar of a boatmen’s guild, as an ornamental piece or as a reminder of a battle at sea.

      Supplied by Erfgoedcel Brugge.

  • Truth

    Truth is wrapped up with doubt. Before you believe anything, doubt holds sway. It is interesting to examine the stages the mind goes through before doubt is transformed into faith. When is the tipping point or the moment when doubt disappears and you hold something to be true? Faith is above the scientific. Truth is a matter of trust.

    • Fake!

      Fake news has been flying around lately. Some say the earth is flat, others that there are aliens living among us. Even Presidents will quite cheerfully lie. Why do so many people believe nonsense? And how do you know whether something is true or not? Journalists and scientists are not allowed to assert anything they like, and work according to set methods. Because journalists get to the truth, they are often arrested and sometimes even murdered by dictators.

    • 16th-century satire

      Brother Cornelis Brouwer was a fanatical preacher who lashed out in his sermons at every citizen of Bruges who was a moderate Catholic or had sympathy for Protestantism. He got a taste of his own medicine. Two satirical books about him appeared with some racy stories. Cornelis Brouwer – according to the author of the satire – was said to enjoy beating sinful women with a scourge on their naked buttocks. Both the character of Cornelis Brouwer (a hard-line man, there is only one truth) and the satirical stories and sermons are still very recognisable today: people who make high moral demands of others are themselves approached very critically.

      Supplied by Musea Brugge.

    • Apocalypse

      Several artists and works in the collection of Musea Brugge depict the Last Judgement: Hieronymus Bosch, Memling (St. John’s Retable), Rik Poot (The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse). The last judgement inspires some very imaginative scenes. Recently, it was the inspiration for a video by David Claerbout at St John’s Hospital.

      Supplied by Musea Brugge.

    • The Journey of Gold Wing and Nightingale

      During the interbellum, Desclée de Brouwer, a publishing house in Bruges, published Dutch-language picture books under the name De Kinkhoren. ‘The journey of Gold Wing and Nightingale’ is a wonderful example of this. Wies Persyn (1914-1999), daughter of the writer and literary critic Jules Persyn, wrote a children’s fairytale about the seven works of mercy. The story fits perfectly into the Catholic tradition of publishing. The Ghent illustrator and miniaturist Jeanne Hebbelynck (1891-1951) illustrated the booklet. The very devout artist initially made a name for herself painting small religious scenes, but later devoted herself to illustrating children’s books and communion cards.

      Supplied by Library of Bruges.

    • On the city of God against the pagans (Augustine)

      Manuscript 008 (M 008), Augustine, De civitate Dei, 2nd half of the 15th century.

      Aurelius Augustine (+ 430) wrote the 22 books on the City of God in the period 413-426. The accusation that Christianity was responsible for the capture of Rome by Alaric in 410 was what led to this extensive work. In the first part, Augustine refutes the notion that the Roman cult of gods would be a blessing for earthly and eternal life. He then develops at length the theme of the opposition between the civitas Dei and the civitas terrena, faith and lack of faith, good and evil. This theology of history is perhaps Augustine’s most widely distributed work. Around 400 Latin manuscripts have been preserved and translations into various modern languages existed as early as the Middle Ages. This miniature is a striking illustration of the main theme of Augustine’s work: the antagonism or struggle between the city of God (the good) on the one hand and the civitas terrena or the civitas diaboli (the evil) on the other.

      Supplied by Library of Bruges.

    • Overview of Medieval knowledge

      Speculum doctrinale, Vincent of Beauvais, late thirteenth century. The Dominican Vincent of Beauvais (+ ca. 1264), by order of the French king Louis IX and with the help of his confrères, compiled a gigantic encyclopaedia around 1250. This Speculum Maius contained three volumes and the second volume was the Speculum Doctrinale, which in turn contained eighteen books. Manuscript 251 contains the first nine books of the Speculum Doctrinale (Bruges, OB, MS 252 contains the remaining nine books) and discusses logic, rhetoric, poetics, geometry, astronomy, education, anatomy, economics, mechanics, medicine and jurisprudence. It is immaculately written (with headings in red and blue, lombards with penwork and headings) and also beautifully illustrated, with historicised initials and border decorations at the beginning of the various books. This last aspect in particular makes the manuscript attractive. In addition to the stereotypical caricatures (hybrid creatures with mitres, a woman playing the fiddle with a rake as a bow), the marginalia contain a series of more realistic scenes (ball games, puppetry, a stake mill, a sower) and possibly some literary reminiscences, in which some piquancy is not shunned.

      Supplied by Library of Bruges.

    • Faith in science

      Simon Stevin Square in Bruges is named after Simon Stevin (1548-1620), a Dutch scientist who became an advisor to Prince Maurice. With a fresh outlook, he constantly enriched new fields such as hydraulic engineering, navigation, accounting, physics, military science, architecture, urban planning, political science and mathematics. The exhibition at the City Archives brings together for the first time all the works and manuscripts by Simon Stevin, including ten works from the heritage collection of the Public Library of Bruges. Two films talk about his life and how his insights and discoveries are still present in our daily lives. A great many items in the collection of the Public Library, the City Archives and Musea Brugge refer to this scientist.

      Supplied by Erfgoedcel Brugge.

    • Lactatio Bernardi

      Bernard begs Mary in a prayer to ‘show yourself as a mother’, to which she replies ‘just look’ and squirts her breast milk into his mouth. In one variation of the legend, Bernard prays to Mary for so long that his lips become dry. Mary takes pity and heals the fissures with her milk.

      Supplied by Musea Brugge

    • Sodomy and witchcraft persecutions

      When Bruges was an international trading post in the 15th century, a melting pot of foreign cultures, its inhabitants were persecuted on the charge of homosexuality (then described as sodomy). During the sixteenth century, the period of Protestantism and Calvinism, monks were executed on charges of sodomy too. In the seventeenth century, it was witches who were persecuted. ‘Being different’ was always punished.

      Supplied by Stadsarchief Brugge.

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