The St. John's Hospital - Bruges

In front of Our Lady's church stands the large complex of the medieval St. John's hospital, one of the oldest still existing hospitals in Europe. In 1978 it lost its function as hospital and harbors now the Memling museum, the hospital museum and the old pharmacy.
The oldest known document with rules for the hospital dates from 1188. It shows that the 'brothers and sisters' of the hospital did not really belong to a religious order with strict rules. In this respect, they did not make vows like other religious orders. This changed in 1236 when the bishop of Tournai insisted that the brothers and sisters made vows of obedience, chastity and poverty. They were also then obliged to wear a religious habit. It was only in 1459 that bishop Chevrot succeeded in transforming the lay order of brothers and sisters of St. John's hospital into a real religious order with formal vows. The reason why the occupants of the hospital accepted this was political : by placing themselves under the authority of a religious institution they could diminish the power of the city's magistrate and Duke Philip the Good.

The St. John's Hospital - Bruges
The St. John's hospital was a powerful and rich institution, with a lot of real estate possessions inside and outside of Bruges. The sisters took care of the daily organization of the sick-bay and kitchen, whereas the brothers were responsible for the administration of the entire complex. Each group lived in a separate part of the hospital. Around 1600, however, St. John's hospital became an all-female institution.

The first and oldest part of the hospital was built in the 'Mariastraat', near to the Mariapoort (Mary's gate, one of the city gates of the first city walls). The hospital was built to provide housing and care for pilgrims, passers-by and traveling salesmen. Also sick people were accepted (at least if their illness was not contagious). Of course, the state of medical care then can not be compared to the present state of medicine in the 20th century. Basically, in the Middle-Ages people turned to the hospitals to find a roof, food and religious assistance in their hour of need and in their time of dying. Because of the continuous growing of the population in the Flemish cities, the hospital soon had to expand. During the 13th and 14th centuries more halls and sick-bays were added to the complex. Not all sick people were accepted : in Bruges there were other institutions for lepers and insane people.

In the 19th century it was decided that a new and more modern hospital building had to be constructed. This was done after 1855 by architect Isidoor Alderweirelt. Fortunately, the old buildings remained at the site so that they can still be visited and admired today. In the 1970's a new general hospital was built in Bruges so that after 8 centuries the St. John's hospital lost its function. It was transformed into a museum and a congress center. Inside the old chapel is now one of the smallest but most attractive museum of Bruges, the Memling museum. Here six paintings by the 15th century painter Hans Memling can be seen. Four of them were painted by Memling for the sisters of the hospital. The most famous painting is the relic shrine of St. Ursula. Furthermore, one can visit the former rooms and sick-bays of the medieval hospital, as well as the old pharmacy. In the buildings of the 19th century is now the cultural center 'Oud Sint-Jan' were numerous congresses and exhibitions are regularly organized.




The Beguinage - Bruges
The Beguinage
Just behind the Minnewater lies the Beguinage 'De Wijngaard' (the Vineyard). It is one of those typical areas in Bruges where one can find more peace and quiet than in the sometimes busy and overcrowded streets of the town center. The Beguinage is a group of houses around a little garden covered with large poplar trees. It was here that during the last seven centuries lived the beguines of Bruges. Full Text
The Belfry and the Cloth Hall - Bruges
The Belfry and the Cloth Hall
The Market square is dominated by the cloth hall and the 83 meter high Belfry tower, one of the symbols of the city. The original cloth hall and tower date from 1240. The first tower, however, was destroyed by fire in 1280. At the time of the fire the four wings of the cloth hall already existed, as well as the two square segments of the belfry. The present octagonal lantern was added to the tower between 1482 en 1486. Full Text
The Canals and the old harbour - Bruges
The Canals and the Old Harbour
Because of its canals Bruges is often called 'The Venice of the North'. The water situation in both cities was, however, very different. Venice was founded on islands in a lagoon of the Adriatic sea. Bruges lies deeper inland ; at least now, because in the five centuries B.C the Flemish coastline must have been flooded several times by the North Sea. Full Text
The Godshuizen - Bruges
The Godshuizen
The visitors who take the time to walk through the beautiful city of Bruges will notice after a while that a certain type of houses can be seen quite often in the city. Those houses are mostly late medieval-looking and bear a name and a year on the outside wall. These houses are called 'Godshuizen'. Literally translated this would mean 'Houses of God'. Full Text
The Gruuthuse house and museum - Bruges
The Gruuthuse House and Museum
The Gruuthuse house and museum is situated behind the Our Lady's church. This impressive city mansion belonged to one of the richest families of the medieval city. It has now been transformed into the archeological city museum of Bruges.
The name already explains why the Gruuthuse family was so important. The old Flemish word 'gruut' means : peeled barley or wheat. Full Text
The Market - Bruges
The Market
The central location of the Market square indicates that this was the medieval heart of the city. At least, the commercial medieval heart, because the center of the city administration was found on the nearby 'Burg' square.
The market place (Grote Markt) is free from traffic since October 1996. It has been completely refurbished and is now one of the most attractive parts of the city.. Full Text
The Minnewater - Bruges
The Minnewater
For most visitors the Minnewater and its lovely park are the entrance to the beautiful city of Bruges. The Minnewater is a canalized lake. From the bridge (1740) one can already enjoy a nice panoramic view over the town. Because of the idyllic surroundings it is mostly referred to as 'the lake of Love', the Dutch word 'Minne' meaning 'love'. Full Text
The St. John's Hospital - Bruges
The St Johns Hhospital
In front of Our Lady's church stands the large complex of the medieval St. John's hospital, one of the oldest still existing hospitals in Europe. In 1978 it lost its function as hospital and harbors now the Memling museum, the hospital museum and the old pharmacy.
The oldest known document with rules for the hospital dates from 1188.. Full Text
The Town Hall and the Burg Square - Bruges
The Town Hall and the Burg Square
Bruges is a city with two town squares. The largest one is the Market, the commercial heart of medieval Bruges. The second square is called the 'Burg'. Here was, and still is, the heart of the administrative Bruges.
It was here that Count Baldwin I had a fortified castle built to protect the area against the ramping Normans and Vikings. Full Text
Links - Advertising - Privacy Policy - Contact us
Copyright 1998-2012, All rights reserved.