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  BRUGES : The Chapel of the Holy Blood


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the 'Stegher', entrance to the chapelThe chapel of the Holy Blood is actually a double chapel which can be visited on the 'Burg' square in Bruges. It was first constructed in the 12th century and promoted to the rank of Basilica in 1923. One can enter the church on the first floor where the Holy Blood is kept via the 'Steeghere' which is a beautifully decorated façade behind which a staircase leads to the first floor. The original façade was constructed in late-gothic and renaissance style in the 16th century. It was demolished in the aftermath of the French Revolution and later rebuild and slightly moved. The guild statues represent Flemish counts.The lower part is called the Basilius chapel. It has preserved its original Romanesque style from the 12th-13th century. On the left side of the choir is the former chapel of the clerks of the civil registry (1503) and on the right side one can see a statue of the Virgin from around 1300. The passage between the main nave and the sidechapel is decorated with a tympanum, which is a sculptured stone in half-relief, probably representing the baptism of St. Basilius.

Inside the Saint Basil churchThe church on the first floor is the actual chapel of the Holy Blood. The church itself was originally built in Romanesque style like the Basilius church on the ground floor. It was changed completely in gothic style in the 15th century and again in 1823. The mural decorations in the present church are from this second renovation in the 19th century. The original stained-glass windows have been removed after the French Revolution. Some of the original ones ended up in the Victoria and Albert museum in London. The copies which can be seen in the church today also date from the 19th century renovation. The silver altar is the place where the relic is preserved during the week. The relic is shown to the public every Friday and every day from the 3rd to the 17th of May. Outside the chapel is the Holy Blood museum, which contains the shrine for the Holy Blood and other treasures belonging to the chapel.


The relic of the holy blood
(According to recent investigations, the bottle of rock cristal, containing the blood, dates back to the 11th or 12th century. Since its arrival in Bruges it has never been opened. It is almost certain that the bottle was made in the area of Constantinopel (now Istanbul in Turkey)  and that it was meant to contain perfume. The Bible never mentioned the fact that Christ's blood was preserved. One of the apocryphal gospels mentions that Worshipping the relic of the Holy Blood. Joseph of Arimathea preserved the blood after he had washed the dead body of Jesus)Tradition has it that count 'Diederik van den Elzas' brought the relic containing the blood of Christ from Jerusalem to Bruges after the second crusade. Recent investigations, however, prove that the relic arrived later in Bruges, probably around 1250 and that it came from Constantinopel (now: Istanbul in Turkey). The adoration of the relic is at the origin of the internationally famous 'Procession of the Holy Blood' which passes every year on Asuncion day during the month of May through the streets of Bruges. Citizens of Bruges dressed in historical costumes enact during this procession biblical scenes and re-enact the arrival of the Count of Flanders who brings the Holy relic to Bruges.


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