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Bruges (play /ˈbruːʒ/ in English; Dutch: Brugge, [ˈbrʏʝə], French: Bruges, [ˈbʁyːʒ], German: Brügge, [ˈbrʏɡə]) is the capital and largest city of the province of West Flanders in the Flemish Region of Belgium. It is located in the northwest of the country.

The historic city centre is a prominent World Heritage Site of UNESCO. It is oval-shaped and about 430 hectares in size. The area of the whole city amounts to more than 13,840 hectares, including 1,075 hectares off the coast, at Zeebrugge (meaning "Brugge aan Zee"[2] or "Bruges on Sea"[3]). The city's total population is 117,073 (1 January 2008),[4] of which around 20,000 live in the historic centre. The metropolitan area, including the outer commuter zone, covers an area of 616 km² and has a total of 255,844 inhabitants as of 1 January 2008.[5]

Along with a few other canal-based northern cities, such as Amsterdam, it is sometimes referred to as "The Venice of the North".

Bruges has a significant economic importance thanks to its port. At one time, it was the "chief commercial city" of the world.[6]


The place-name Bruges is first mentioned as Bruggas, Brvggas, Brvccia in 840 - 875, then Bruciam, Bruociam in 892, Brutgis uico end 9th century, in portu Bruggensi around 1010, Bruggis in 1012, Bricge in 1037 (Anglo-Saxon chronicle), Brugensis in 1046, Brycge 1049 - 1052 (ASC), Brugias in 1072, Bruges in 1080 - 1085, Bruggas around 1084, Brugis in 1089, Brugge in 1116.[7]

Probably from Old Dutch, cf. Middle Dutch brucge, brugge (or brugghe, brigghe, bregghe, brogghe). cf. Dutch bruggehoofd "beachhead", Dutch Brug "bridge").[8] The Dutch word brug(ghe) would be variant form from the south.[9]

Ultimatly from Proto-Germanic brugjō- "bridge", "harbour bridge", "veenbrug" (cf. English bridge)

Very few traces of human activity in Bruges date from the Pre-Roman Gaul era. The first fortifications were built after Julius Caesar's conquest of the Menapii in the first century BC, to protect the coastal area against pirates. The Franks took over the whole region from the Gallo-Romans around the 4th century and administered it as the Pagus Flandrensis. The Viking incursions of the ninth century prompted Baldwin I, Count of Flanders to reinforce the Roman fortifications; trade soon resumed with England and Scandinavia.
Golden age (12th to 15th century)
The Markt ("Market square")
An old street in Bruges, with the Church of Our Lady tower in the background.

Bruges got its city charter on July 27, 1128 and new walls and canals were built. Since about 1050, gradual silting had caused the city to lose its direct access to the sea. A storm in 1134, however, re-established this access, through the creation of a natural channel at the Zwin. The new sea arm stretched all the way to Damme, a city that became the commercial outpost for Bruges.

With the reawakening of town life in the twelfth century, a wool market, a woollens weaving industry, and the market for cloth all profited from the shelter of city walls, where surpluses could be safely accumulated under the patronage of the counts of Flanders. Bruges was already included in the circuit of the Flemish cloth fairs at the beginning of the 13th century. The city's entrepreneurs reached out to make economic colonies of England and Scotland's wool-producing districts. English contacts brought Normandy grain and Gascon wines. Hanseatic ships filled the harbor, which had to be expanded beyond Damme to Sluys to accommodate the new cog-ships. In 1277, the first merchant fleet from Genoa appeared in the port of Bruges, first of the merchant colony that made Bruges the main link to the trade of the Mediterranean. This development opened not only the trade in spices from the Levant, but also advanced commercial and financial techniques and a flood of capital that soon took over the banking of Bruges. The Bourse opened in 1309 (most likely the first stock exchange in the world) and developed into the most sophisticated money market of the Low Countries in the 14th century. By the time Venetian galleys first appeared, in 1314, they were latecomers.[10]

Such wealth gave rise to social upheavals, which were for the most part harshly contained. In 1302, however, after the Bruges Matins (the nocturnal massacre of the French garrison in Bruges by the members of the local Flemish militia on 18 May 1302), the population joined forces with the Count of Flanders against the French, culminating in the victory at the Battle of the Golden Spurs, fought near Kortrijk on July 11. The statue of Jan Breydel and Pieter de Coninck, the leaders of the uprising, can still be seen on the Big Market square.

At the end of the 14th century, Bruges became one of the Four Members, along with Franc of Bruges, Ghent and Ypres. Together they formed a parliament, however they frequently quarrelled amongst themselves.[11]

In the 15th century, Philip the Good, duke of Burgundy, set up court in Bruges, as well as Brussels and Lille, attracting a number of artists, bankers, and other prominent personalities from all over Europe. The weavers and spinners of Bruges were thought to be the best in the world, and the population of Bruges grew to 200,000 inhabitants at this time.[12]

The new Flemish-school, oil-painting techniques gained world renown. The first book in English ever printed was published in Bruges by William Caxton. This is also the time when Edward IV and Richard III of England spent time in exile here.
16th century onwards
[icon] This section requires expansion.
Bruges on the Ferraris map (around 1775)

Starting around 1500, the Zwin channel, which had given the city its prosperity, also started silting. The city soon fell behind Antwerp as the economic flagship of the Low Countries. During the 17th century, the lace industry took off, and various efforts to bring back the glorious past were made. During the 1650s, the city was the base for Charles II of England and his court in exile.[13] The maritime infrastructure was modernized, and new connections with the sea were built, but without much success. Bruges became impoverished and gradually disappeared from the picture, with its population dwindling from 200,000 to 50,000 by the end of the 1800s.[12]

The symbolist novelist George Rodenbach even made the sleepy city into a character in his novel Bruges-la-Morte, meaning "Bruges-the-dead", which was adapted into Erich Wolfgang Korngold's opera, Die tote Stadt (The Dead City). In the last half of the 19th century, Bruges became one of the world's first tourist destinations attracting wealthy British and French tourists.[clarification needed] Only in the second half of the 20th century has the city started to reclaim some of its past glory. The port of Zeebrugge was built in 1907. The Germans used it for their U-boats in World War I. It was greatly expanded in the 1970s and early 1980s and has become one of Europe's most important and modern ports. International tourism has boomed, and new efforts have resulted in Bruges being designated 'European Capital of Culture' in 2002.
Satellite picture of Bruges.
Municipality of Bruges.

The municipality comprises:

The historic city centre of Bruges, Sint-Jozef and Sint-Pieters (I)
Koolkerke (II)
Sint-Andries (III)
Sint-Michiels (IV)
Assebroek (V)
Sint-Kruis (VI)
Dudzele (VII)
Lissewege (with Zeebrugge and Zwankendamme) (VIII)

Historic Centre of Bruges *
UNESCO World Heritage Site
Northwestern view from the Belfry
Country Belgium
Type Cultural
Criteria ii, iv, vi
Reference 996
Region ** Europe and North America
Inscription history
Inscription 2000 (24th Session)
* Name as inscribed on World Heritage List
** Region as classified by UNESCO

Bruges has most of its medieval architecture intact. The historic centre of Bruges has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 2000.[14]

Many of its medieval buildings are notable, including the Church of Our Lady, whose brick spire reaches 122.3 m (401.25 ft), making it one of the world's highest brick towers/buildings. The sculpture Madonna and Child, which can be seen in the transept, is believed to be Michelangelo's only sculpture to have left Italy within his lifetime.

Bruges' most famous landmark is its 13th-century belfry, housing a municipal carillon comprising 48 bells.[15] The city still employs a full-time carillonneur, who gives free concerts on a regular basis.

Other famous buildings in Bruges include:

The Beguinage
The Basilica of the Holy Blood (Dutch: Heilig-Bloedbasiliek). The relic of the Holy Blood, which was brought to the city after the Second Crusade by Thierry of Alsace, is paraded every year through the streets of the city. More than 1,600 inhabitants take part in this mile-long religious procession, many dressed as medieval knights or crusaders.
The modern Concertgebouw ("Concert Building")
The Old St-John's Hospital
The Saint Salvator's Cathedral
The Groeningemuseum
The City Hall on the Burg square
The Provincial Court (Provinciaal Hof)
The preserved old city gateways: the Kruispoort, the Gentpoort, the Smedenpoort and the Ezelpoort. The Dampoort, the Katelijnepoort and the Boeveriepoort are gone.

Bruges also has a very fine collection of medieval and early modern art, including the world-famous collection of Flemish Primitives. Various masters, such as Hans Memling and Jan van Eyck, lived and worked in Bruges.
Culture and art
Theatres and concert halls
't Zand square with the Concertgebouw.
The Belfry – situated on the south side of the Markt.
City Hall.
Saint Salvator's Cathedral.

Concertgebouw ("Concert Building")
De Dijk
De Werf
Het Entrepot
Joseph Ryelandtzaal
Studio Hall


Cinema Lumière (alternative movies)
Cinema Liberty
Kinepolis Bruges


Music festivals

Airbag (accordion festival)
Ars Musica (contemporary music)
Blues in Bruges
Brugge Tripel Dagen
Brugges Festival (world music)
Elements Festival (electronic music)
Fuse on the Beach (dance festival in Zeebrugge)
Hafabrugge (orchestra festival)
Internationale Fedekam Taptoe
Jazz Brugge (jazz festival)
Koorfestival (choir festival)
Festival van Vlaanderen – MAfestival (old music)
Music in Mind (atmospheric (rock) music)
September Jazz (jazz festival)
Sint-Gillis Blues – en Folkfestival
Many small rock festivals; the best known are:
Comma Rocks Festival
Red Rock Rally

Cultural or food festivals

BAB-bierfestival (beer festival)
Brugse Kantdagen ("Bruges' Lace Days")
Chapter 2 (juggling convention)
Choco-Laté (chocolate festival)
Cinema Novo (film festival)
Cirque Plus (circus festival)
European Youth Film Festival of Flanders
Ice Magic (snow and ice sculpture festival)
Jonge Snaken Festival
NAFT (theatre festival)
Poirot in Bruges – Knack thrillerfestival
Razor Reel Fantastic Film Festival
Reiefeest (festival on the canals)

Musical cultural festivals

Come On!
December Dance (dance festival)
Feest In 't Park
Polé Polé Beach (in Zeebrugge)
Sint-Michielse Feeste
Summer End Festival
Vama Veche festival

Municipal museums

Artistic works from the 15th to 21st century:
Arents House (contains a Sir Frank Brangwyn museum and a museum for ever-changing exhibitions of expressive art)
The Bruggemuseum ("Bruges Museum") (general name for 11 different historical museums in the city):
Welcome Church of Our Lady
Archaeological Museum
City Hall
Liberty of Bruges
Museum of Folklore
Guido Gezelle Museum
Koelewei (Cool Meadow) Mill
Sint-Janshuis (St. John’s House) Mill
Old St John’s Hospital (Hans Memling)
Our Lady of the Potteries

Non-municipal museums

Beguine's House
Brewery museum
Hof Bladelin
Basilica of the Holy Blood
Choco-Story (chocolate museum)
Lumina Domestica (lamp museum)
Museum-Gallery Xpo: Salvador Dalí
Diamond Museum
English Convent
Frietmuseum (museum dedicated to Belgian Fries)
Jerusalem Church
Lace centre
St. George’s Archers Guild
Saint Salvator's Cathedral
St. Sebastian’s Archers’ Guild
St. Trudo Abbey
Public Observatory Beisbroek
Ter Doest Abbey (in Lissewege)


Bruges has motorway connections to all directions:

A10 to Ostend
A10/E40 to Ghent and Brussels
A18/E40 to Veurne and France
A17/E403 to Kortrijk and Tournai
N31/E403 to Zeebrugge
N49/E34 to Antwerp

Driving within the 'egg', the historical centre enclosed by the main circle of canals in Bruges, is discouraged by traffic management schemes, including a network of one way streets. The system encourages the use of set routes leading to central car parks and direct exit routes. The car parks are convenient for the central commercial and tourist areas; they are inexpensive.

Bruges' main railway station is the focus of lines to the Belgian coast. It also provides at least hourly trains to all other major cities in Belgium, as well as to Lille, France. Further there are several regional and local trains.

The main station is also a stop for the Thalys train Paris–Brussels–Ostend.

Bus links to the centre are frequent, though the railway station is just a 10 minute walk from the main shopping streets and a 20 minute walk from the Market Square.

Plans for a north–south light rail connection through Bruges, from Zeebrugge to Lichtervelde, and a light rail connection between Bruges and Ostend are under construction.

The national Brussels Airport, one hour away by train or car, offers the best connections. The nearest airport is the Ostend-Bruges International Airport in Ostend (around 25 km from the city centre of Bruges), but it offers limited passenger transport and connections.
't Zand bus station.
Public city transport

Bruges has an extensive web of bus lines, operated by De Lijn, providing access to the city centre and the suburbs (city lines, Dutch: stadslijnen) and to many towns and villages in the region around the city (regional lines, Dutch: streeklijnen).

In support of the municipal traffic management (see "Road" above), free public transport is available for those who park their cars in the main railway station car park.

Although a few streets are restricted, no part of Bruges is car free.

Cars are required to yield to pedestrians and cyclists. Plans have long been under way to ban cars altogether from the historic center of Bruges or to restrict traffic much more than it currently is, but these plans have yet to come to fruition. In 2005, signs were changed for the convenience of cyclists, allowing two-way cycle traffic on more streets, however car traffic has not decreased. Recent cycle fatalities have increased pressure to close bridges and further calm inner Bruges, but laws have not yet passed. Due to heavily populated suburbs, bus traffic is high on the narrow streets. This makes cycling even trickier.

Nevertheless, in common with many cities in the region, there are thousands of cyclists in the city of Bruges.
The Elly Mærsk, here at Zeebrugge port, currently one of the world's largest container vessels.
Main article: Port of Bruges-Zeebrugge

The port of Bruges is Zeebrugge (Bruges-on-Sea). It is the most modern and second biggest port of Belgium and one of the most important in Europe. Template:Citation needed:date=January 2012 On 6 March 1987, the British ferry MS Herald of Free Enterprise capsised after leaving the port, killing 187 people, the worst disaster involving a British civilian vessel since 1919.[16]
Jan Breydel Stadium.

Bruges is traditionally the starting town for the annual Ronde van Vlaanderen cycle race, held in April and one of the biggest sporting events in Belgium.

Bruges is also a football town, represented by two teams at the top level (Belgian First Division): Club Brugge K.V. and Cercle Brugge K.S.V., both playing in the Jan Breydel Stadium (30,000 seats) in Sint-Andries. There are plans for a new stadium with about 45,000 seats in the south of the city, near the junction of the E40 and the E403.

In 2000 Bruges was one of the eight host cities for the UEFA European Football Championship, co-hosted by Belgium and its neighbour the Netherlands.
The KHBO campus in Sint-Michiels.

Bruges is an important centre for education in West Flanders. Next to the several common primary and secondary schools, there are a few colleges, like the KHBO (Katholieke Hogeschool Brugge-Oostende) or the HOWEST (Hogeschool West-Vlaanderen). Furthermore, the city is home to the College of Europe, a prestigious institution of postgraduate studies in European Economics, Law and Politics, and of the United Nations University Institute on Comparative Regional Integration Studies (UNU-CRIS), a Research and Training Institute of the United Nations University specialising in the comparative study of regional integration.
Town twinning policy

On principle, Bruges has to date never entered into close collaboration with twin cities. Without denying the usefulness of this schemes for towns with fewer international contacts, the main reason is that Bruges would find it difficult to choose between cities and thinks that it has enough work already with its many international contacts. Also, it was thought[who?] in Bruges that twinning was too often an occasion for city authorities and representatives to travel on public expense.

This principle resulted, in the 1950s, in Bruges refusing a jumelage with Nice and other towns, signed by a Belgian ambassador without previous consultation. In the 1970s, a Belgian consul in Oldenburg made the mayor of Bruges sign a declaration of friendship which he tried to present, in vain, as a jumelage.

The twinning between some of the former communes, merged with Bruges in 1971, were discontinued.

This does not mean that Bruges would not be interested in cooperation with others, as well in the short term as in the long run, for particular projects. Here follow a few examples.

Belgium Bastogne, Luxembourg, Belgium
After World War II and into the 1970s, Bruges, more specifically the Fire Brigade of Bruges, entertained friendly relations with Bastogne. Each year a free holiday was offered at the seaside in Zeebrugge, to children from the Nuts city.
Germany Arolsen, Hesse, Germany
From the 1950s until the 1980s, Bruges was the patron of the Belgian First Regiment of Horse Guards, quartered in Arolsen.
Spain Salamanca, Castilla y León, Spain
Both towns having been made European Capital of Culture in 2002, Bruges had some exchanges organized with Salamanca.
Belgium Mons, Hainaut, Belgium
In 2007, cultural and artistic cooperation between Mons and Bruges was inaugurated.
Spain Burgos, Castilla y León, Spain
On 29 January 2007, the mayors of Burgos and Bruges signed a declaration of intent about future cooperation on cultural, touristic and economic matters.

Notable people
Main article: Notable people from Bruges

The following people were born in Bruges:

Jan Breydel and Pieter de Coninck, freedom fighters
Philip I of Castile, first Habsburg ruler in Spain (1478–1506)
Adrian Willaert, composer of the Renaissance, (birth in Bruges uncertain, c. 1490-1562)
Simon Stevin, mathematician and engineer (1548–1620)
Franciscus Gomarus, Calvinist theologian (1563–1641)
Guido Gezelle, poet and priest (1830–1899)
Gotye, Australian-Belgian singer songwriter (1980)
Isidore van Kinsbergen, Dutch-Flemish engraver, (1821-1905)

In the 15th century, the city became the magnet for a number of prominent personalities:

Philip the Good, Duke of Burgundy set up court in Bruges, Brussels, and Lille in the 15th century
William Caxton, English merchant, diplomat, writer, and printer
Petrus Christus, Flemish painter
Gerard David, Flemish painter
Hans Memling, Flemish painter
Jan van Eyck, Flemish painter
Juan Luís Vives, Spanish scholar and humanist
Simon Bening and Levina Teerlinc, Limners

Brugse Zot.
The exterior of the Boudewijn Seapark dolphinarium in Bruges.

Bruges is known for its lace.
Several beers are named after Bruges, such as Brugge Blond, Brugge Tripel, Brugs, Brugse Babbelaar, Brugse Straffe Hendrik and Brugse Zot. However, only Brugse Zot and Brugse Straffe Hendrik are still brewed in the city itself, in the Halve Maan Brewery.
In Sint-Michiels is the amusement park Boudewijn Seapark, which features a dolphinarium.
Bruges-la-Morte, a short novel by the Belgian author Georges Rodenbach, first published in 1892.
In Bruges, a film from Oscar-winning director Martin McDonagh, starring Colin Farrell and Brendan Gleeson, is set almost entirely in Bruges. The city's major landmarks and history are mentioned repeatedly throughout the film, as are the contrasted viewpoints of the two lead characters of the story.
The detective stories of Pieter Aspe are situated in Bruges.
The Nun's Story, a dramatic film released by Warner Bros. Pictures in 1959, is mostly set in Bruges.
Niccolò Rising, the first volume of the 8 book House of Niccolò series by Dorothy Dunnett is largely set in Bruges, and other books in the series also have sections set in Bruges.
Floris, a Dutch television action series, written by Gerard Soeteman.
Alan Hollinghurst's novel The Folding Star is set in a Flemish town that is recognisably Bruges.
L'Astrologue de Bruges, a Belgian bande dessinée in the Yoko Tsuno series by Roger Leloup, is entirely set in Bruges, both contemporary and in 1545.
In the last chapter of Saul Bellow's novel The Adventures of Augie March Augie is driving through France on his way to Bruges on business.

Further reading

de Roover, Raymond. Money, Banking and Credit in Mediaeval Bruges: Italian Merchant-Bankers Lombards and Money-Changers: A Study in The Origins of Banking (Harvard U.P. 1948);
Murray, James M. Bruges, Cradle of Capitalism 1280–1390 (2005)


^ Population per municipality on 1 January 2010 (XLS; 221 KB)
^ Degraer, Hugo (1968). Repertorium van de pers in West-Vlaanderen 1807-1914. Nauwelaerts, University of Michigan. p. 143., Snippet pages 143
^ Boniface, Brian G.; Cooper, Christopher P. (2001). Worldwide destinations: the geography of travel and tourism (3 ed.). Butterworth-Heinemann. p. 140. ISBN 0-750-64231-9., page 140
^ Statistics Belgium; Population de droit par commune au 1 janvier 2008 (excel-file) Population of all municipalities in Belgium, as of 1 January 2008. Retrieved on 2008-10-19.
^ Statistics Belgium; De Belgische Stadsgewesten 2001 (pdf-file) Definitions of metropolitan areas in Belgium. The metropolitan area of Bruges is divided into three levels. First, the central agglomeration (agglomeratie), which in this case is Bruges municipality, with 117,073 inhabitants (2008-01-01). Adding the closest surroundings (banlieue) gives a total of 166,502. And, including the outer commuter zone (forensenwoonzone) the population is 255,844. Retrieved on 2008-10-19.
^ Dunton, Larkin (1896). The World and Its People. Silver, Burdett. p. 158.
^ Maurits Gysseling, Toponymisch woordenboek van België, Nederland, Luxemburg, Noord-Frankrijk en West-Duitsland (vóór 1226), Brussel 1960, p. 195.
^ Etymology of Bruges and Brug (Dutch)
^ M. Philippa, F. Debrabandere, A. Quak, T. Schoonheim & N. van der Sijs (2003-2009), Etymologisch woordenboek van het Nederlands, AUP: Amsterdam.
^ Braudel, Fernand, The Perspective of the World, in Vol.III Civilization and Capitalism, 1984
^ Philip the Good: the apogee of Burgundy by Richard Vaughan, p201
^ a b Dunton, Larkin (1896). The World and Its People. Silver, Burdett. p. 160.
^ David Plant (2007-09-10). "Charles, Prince of Wales, (later Charles II), 1630-85". British-civil-wars.co.uk. Retrieved 2009-07-07.
^ Historic centre of Bruges becomes a UNESCO World Heritage Site
^ Dunton, Larkin (1896). The World and Its People. Silver, Burdett. p. 161.
^ http://www.maib.gov.uk/cms_resources.cfm?file=/HofFEfinal.pdf

External links

Official Website, also available in Dutch, French and German
Texts on Wikisource:
"Bruges". Encyclopaedia Britannica. 4 (9th ed.). 1878.
Demetrius Charles Boulger (1911). "Bruges". In Chisholm, Hugh. Encyclopædia Britannica (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press.
"Bruges". Encyclopedia Americana. 1920.

From Wikipedia, All text is available under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License


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