Historic Center of Brugge (2000)

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Brugge is an outstanding example of a medieval historic settlement, which has maintained its historic fabric as this has evolved over the centuries, and where original Gothic constructions form part of the town's identity. As one of the commercial and cultural capitals of Europe, Brugge developed cultural links to different parts of the world. It is closely associated with the school of Flemish Primitive painting. 

Brugge is found in northwestern Belgium, capital of West Flanders Province, near the port of Oostende. Several railroads serve the city, which is also connected by canals to Oostende, Ghent (Gent), and the port of Zeebrugge. 

Important economically to Brugge are the manufacture of fine lace, a product for which the city has long been famous, and the large number of tourists attracted by the city's medieval character. 

Other industries are textile and chemical manufacturing, brewing, and shipbuilding. Points of interest in Brugge are the more than 50 bridges that span the canals in the city and that can be opened to permit the passage of ships. 

Belgium 1975. World Cultural Heritage. View of Brugge. Belgium.

Belgium 1975. World Cultural Heritage. Belfry of Brugge. Belgium.

Among the many medieval buildings in the city are: 

- the 13th-century Halles, or marketplace, with a belfry 108 m (353 ft) high, 

- the Cathedral of Saint Salvator (13th-14th century), 

- the Basilica of the Holy Blood, comprised of a lower chapel built in the 12th century and an upper chapel built in the 15th or 16th century, and 

- the 13th-century church of Notre Dame, with a 122-m (400-ft) tower; and the Hôtel de Ville, the oldest town hall in Belgium, begun in the 14th century. 

  • Belgium 1975.  The Belfry of Brugge. 


Among the art treasures of the city are Virgin and Child (1501-1505), a marble sculpture attributed to Michelangelo, and the chief paintings of Hans Memling. 

Belgium 1975. World Cultural Heritage. Virgin and Child by Michelangelo. Brugge. Belgium. Belgium 1994. World Cultural Heritage. "Madonna with the Child on the Throne" by Hans Memling. Brugge. Belgium.
During the 9th century Brugge was fortified by the counts of Flanders. At that time the town was linked to the sea by the Zwyn River, and during the next four centuries its importance as a port increased steadily. Brugge became a member of the Hanseatic League about 1340. 

The city, then one of the leading trade and woolen-goods manufacturing centers of the world, flourished until the end of the 15th century. From this period originates also the world famous lace-works from Brugge. 

  • Belgium 1989.  Lace-work from Brugge, with the Brugge Belfry in front. 

Belgium 1989. World Cultural Heritage. Lace-work from Brugge, with the Brugge Belfry in front. Belgium.

About that time, it began to decline, primarily because of the closing of the Zwyn River by accumulated silt. As a consequence, the weaving industry disintegrated, and the guilds collapsed. Brugge never regained its former preeminence as a trading and manufacturing center, and before the end of the 16th century it was known as Bruges-la-Morte (French for “dead Bruges”). From 1795 to 1814, during the French Revolution and the Napoleonic Wars, the city was ruled by France. It was a possession of the Netherlands from 1814 to 1830, when Belgian independence was established. 

Construction of the canal between Brugge and Zeebrugge early in the 20th century considerably accelerated commercial activity in the city. At the same time, city leaders took steps to preserve Brugge's dramatic architecture, which had survived largely intact from the city's period of commercial dominance. German military forces occupied Brugge from 1914 to 1918 during World War I and again during World War II from 1940 to 1944. Today the city is one of the biggest tourist attractions in Belgium, and is considered one of the best-preserved medieval cities in Europe. 

Sources and links: 

Other World Heritage Sites in Belgium (on this site). Please refer to the UNESCO-listing, Belgium section, for further information about the individual properties. 

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Revised 18 aug 2007  
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