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  BRUGES : The Saint Salvator Cathedral
 
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St. Salvator's cathedralThe city of Bruges has been beautifully preserved and charms its visitors by its medieval character. Of course, not every building has been left untouched through the course of the centuries. Very often the present buildings have undergone numerous changes and renovations throughout their history. One of the best examples is the main church of the city, namely St. Salvator's Cathedral. This church was not built to become the cathedral of the city. It rose to this status only in the 19th century. At the beginning St. Salvator's was only a parish church. The main religious building in the city was the St. Donatius church which was situated right in the heart of Bruges, opposite the town hall. At the end of the 18th century French occupants of Bruges chased away the bishop of the city and demolished the St. Donatius church, seat of the bishop. In 1834, after the Belgian independence in 1830, a new bishop was installed in Bruges and the St. Salvator's church was promoted to the status of cathedral. However, the building itself was not very cathedral-like. It was actually much smaller and much less impressive than the nearby church of Our Lady. Hence, St. Salvator's had to be adapted to its new status. A higher, more impressive tower was needed.

St. Salvator's Cathedral in 1641.The oldest, still existing, part is the basis of the mighty tower. It dates back to the end of the 12th century. The other parts (nave, choir, transepts) were constructed during the following centuries. In 1839 a fire destroyed the roof of the church. William Chantrell, an English architect known for his neogothic restorations of English churches, was asked to restore the St. Salvator's Cathedral. At the same time he was also allowed the make the tower higher so that the new cathedral should not be too overshadowed by the tower of the Our Lady's Church. Instead of adding a neogothic part to the tower, Chantrell chose a very personal Romanesque design. After the completion, the new tower met with a lot of criticism. The Royal Commission for Monuments even had (without Chantrell's consent) the tower crowned with a little spire, because the original design was considered too flat.

(Above: St. Salvator's church in 1641, by A. Sanderus)

Interior view of St. Salvator's cathedral.The St. Salvator's cathedral possesses a lot of works of art that come from its demolished predecessor, the St. Donatius church. Among the most eye-catching are the beautiful wall tapestries which were woven in the Brussels weaving manufactory Van der Borcht in 1730. They were ordered by bishop Van Susteren for the St. Donatius church. The Salvator cathedral also possesses the original paintings that were used as models for the wall tapestries, which is a quite unique combination that exists almost nowhere else. In the choir one can see the original choir stalls from the 16th century. Above these choir stalls the weapons can be seen of the the knights of the Golden Fleece who attended the 13th chapter of the Golden Fleece which took place on April the 30th in 1478.

 


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