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  BRUGES : The Market


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- Gruuthuse

- The Market
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- Jerusalem Church
- The 'Godshuizen'

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(Under : View of the Market in 1847 with the Befry tower and the Provincial court on the left side)

The market of Bruges in  1847.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. The main monument is of course the belfry tower and the cloth hall. On the Northern side of the Market is the Provincial Court. It stands on the site were the medieval 'water halls' used to stand. This was a covered hall where the ships could unload their products for storage in the halls or for direct sale on the adjacent market. Right in the middle of the square the statue of Jan Breydel and Pieter de Coninck can be seen. The other sides of the market are occupied by restaurants and shops located in former private houses as well as in guild houses.

The provincial court on the market of Bruges.The Provincial court is the best example of how Bruges was renovated in neo-gothic style during the second half of the 19th century. After the destruction of the water halls in 1787 a new complex of houses was built there in classicist style. This style was considered very modern in a town that was basically built in late-gothic style. In 1850 the provincial government bought the complex, enlarged it and made it the seat of the provincial institutions. The members of the catholic and traditionalist political parties rejected the building as 'unfit for the beautiful gothic Bruges'. In 1878 a fire destroyed most of the building. Different groups took their chance to have it reconstructed in neo-gothic style, the 'house'-style of the catholic party. On the left side of the complex is now the house of the Governor of the Province of West-Flanders. The red brick building on the right side is the Post Office of Bruges.

In the center of the Market stands the statue of Jan Breydel and Pieter de Coninck. The statue not only honors these two leaders of the 'Battle of the Golden Spurs' which took place on the 11th of July 1302, it is perhaps more so a clear statement of the political leaders of the 1880's that the cause for Flemish emancipation was something that the Belgian government had to take notice of. Both Breydel and de Coninck participated in the 1302 uprising of the Flemish against the occupation by the French king, known as the Battle of the Golden Spurs'. This battle was also the central theme of the book 'De Leeuw van Vlaanderen' (the lion of Flanders) written by Hendrik Conscience in 1838. He romanticized the Flemish uprising and it became a symbol of the Flemish movement which fought for recognition of the Dutch language and Flemish culture in the French-language dominated Belgium of the 19th century.

Finally, on the Southern side of the Market several medieval-looking houses can be seen. They are not really medieval because a lot of them are modern reconstructions of the medieval styles. Some critics use these and other reconstructions (like the Provincial Government house or the Holy Blood Chapel) to bring down the image of Bruges as a fake. It is absolutely true that Bruges is as much a medieval city as a neo-gothic reconstruction from the 19th century. It is not difficult, however, to understand that buildings which are several centuries old always have to be renovated at certain times just for the sole purpose of keeping them in existence. Will the Empire State building, if it still exists in 500 years, look exactly the same as today, with no single stone changed ?


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