The Church of Our Lady with its 122-metre brick steeple, dominates the skyline of the city. It is quite literally the ‘high spot’ of the stonemason’s art in medieval Bruges. It took two centuries (13th-15th) to build the church. Among the many art treasures is a beautiful Carrara marble Madonna and Child sculpture by Michelangelo.
Madonna and Child sculpture by Michelangelo
Although there are many different adaptations of the Madonna and child, whether it is a painting or sculpture, it represents the very core of Christianity. It represents the Virgin Mary and son Jesus together. The most famous of all is the Michelangelo sculpture made of marble named "Madonna of Bruges". The rich history behind this sculpture is fascinating.
Created in Italy and exported to Belgium in 1504, Michelangelo’s Madonna and Child is significantly different from other adaptations. It does not show a kind and warm mother gazing at her child; rather it depicts a mother who is sorrowful at what is to become of her son.
Michelangelo’s Madonna and child has been protected for hundreds of years. Although it was taken by soldiers in both the French revolution and in World War II and hidden from everyone, it was later found and returned to Belgium. It is a sculpture that is revered by millions of people who travel from all over to world to view it. The work is also notable in that it was the only sculpture by Michelangelo to leave Italy during his lifetime. It is the only sculpture by the great Italian artist present in the Low Countries.
Ceremonial tombs of Mary of Burgundy and Charles the Bold
In the choir of the church, are the magnificent tombstones of Mary of Burgundy and her father Charles the Bold. Duchess Mary reigned over the Low Countries in the last part of the 15th century.
At the age of 25 the Duchess met her death by a fall from her horse on 27 March 1482 near the Castle of Wijnendale. She loved riding, and was falconing with Maximilian when her horse tripped, threw her, and then landed on top of her, breaking her back. She died several days later, having made a detailed will. She is buried in the Church of Our Lady in Bruges.
Charles the Bold died in 1477 in Nancy, France, during a battle. Brought back to Bruges in 1550, his remains lie next to those of his daughter. Mary's sarcophagus, made from black marble surmounting by a reclining image of her in bronze is an example of late gothic style. Charles tomb also has a reclining image of the diseased in bronze. Only completed in the mid-16th century it has the later early renaissance style. In front of both tombs is a triptych by Barend van Orley.
Exceptional pieces: paintings and exquisite woodcarving.
The choir aisle is also a treasure trove of exceptional pieces: paintings and exquisite woodcarving, the 16th-century ceremonial tombs of Mary of Burgundy and Charles the Bold, as well as other painted tombs from the 13th and 14th centuries, etc.
There are outstanding paintings by Pieter Poubus (Last Supper and Adoration of the Shepherds) and Gerard David (Transfigeration) but after the Michelangelo it is the choir area that holds most interest.
Elsewhere you'll find the funerary chapel of Pieter Lanchals containing frescoed tombs in maroon and black as well as Van Dyck's starkly atmospheric painting of Christ on the cross.
Tickets for the museum section are on sale in the south transept until 4.30 p.m. / the church and the museum are not open to the public during nuptial and funeral masses
Additional closing dates:
5 May 2016
1 January 2016
25 December 2016
All photos © M. Willems for visit-bruges.be