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dinsdag 26 november 2013

The very beginning of Bruges

If you are looking for written history on Bruges, you will find out that there is nothing to find from before 1280.

The Belfry, which was built in 1240 housed the city archives. But a big fire in 1280 destroyed the mayor part of the building, so all archives up until then were lost. This is why it’s so difficult to reconstruct the history before that time. Everything we know from before 1280 has come from documents found throughout Europe.

Actually, I learned in my lessons for city guide that there was a settlement somewhere in the 100’s in the area of Bruges, it lasted for 200 years, but then the mystery begins. There is a gap of 500 years from that moment on. Strange, no? How can you lose 500 years of history? If nothing is written down, nothing will pass on. Only through tales, but those aren’t the most reliable. People like to exaggerate…

But, it is a fact that in 863 Baldwin I married Judith, daughter of Charles the Bald. (I always found those names strange… He was bald, ok, that’s so special? But in this case, “the Bald” refers to the fact he had no possessions in the beginning.) Charles the Bald required land, had a daughter Judith. At the age of 17 she already was a widow… twice! Charles the Bald wanted to her to marry “favorable” again. Judith wasn’t too keen on this, so in 861 she eloped with the love of her life, Baldwin.
“Dad” wasn’t so happy on this, he had them excommunicated by some bishops but Judith and Baldwin had this annulled by the pope (Nicolas I) and he also reconciled them.

They married in 863 and Charles assigned the area of Flanders to Baldwin, knowing the area was insignificant. But, Baldwin was a clever man and ruler. He stopped the Viking raids and built fortifications in surrounding settlements.

This later became the first cathedral of Bruges. In 1799 Napoleon sold the cathedral public and it was taken down.

You can still visit the foundations of the cathedral, together with some artifacts found during the excavations. Just go in the Crowne Plaza Hotel, ask the person at the reception if it’s possible to visit the basement (not the creepy one, but the lower floor). If there’s nothing going on at that moment (party, wedding…) you can go downstairs. This will cost you nothing! Yep, it’s for free!