The Encyclopedia Americana (1920)/Bruges

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BRUGES, broozh, (Flemish Brugge), a city of Belgium, capital of West Flanders, situated about 60 miles northwest of Brussels, about eight miles from the sea, surrounded and intersected by canals which connect it with Ostend and other places. By these canals fairly large vessels can reach Bruges; and a ship canal built since 1900 connects it with the sea at Zeebrugge on the North Sea, seven and one-half miles distant. This allows ships of 25 feet draft to reach the wharves of the city. Bruges has over 50 bridges all opening in the middle for the passage of vessels. The Halles (containing cloth and other markets) is a fine old building, with a famous belfry or tower 350 feet high, in which is a fine carillon of 48 hells. Bruges has also a beautiful town hall dating from the 14th century; a palace of justice, noted for a magnificently adorned fireplace; an academy of painting, sculpture and architecture; a public library, etc., and many valuable specimens of architecture and sculpture. In the church of Notre Dame, which has a spire 290 feet high, are the splendid tombs of Charles the Bold and of Mary of Burgundy, his daughter, constructed in 1550, besides many other artistic treasures. The cathedral of Saint Sauveur dates from the 13th and 14th centuries, and is unattractive externally, but has a fine interior, and there are other notable churches. Philip the Good here founded the order of the Golden Fleece in 1430; and the celebrated Jan Van Eyck, or John of Bruges, the supposed inventor of painting in oil, was born here. From the 7th century Bruges was rapidly acquiring importance. It was fortified by Count Baldwin in 837, walled first in 1053 and again in 1270. During the government of the rich and powerful counts of Flanders, who resided there from the 9th to the 15th centuries, its woolen manufactures grew and flourished to an amazing extent. The wealth of the citizens was enormous; a single merchant gave security for the ransom of Jean sans Peur, the last Count of Flanders, to the amount of 400,000 crowns of gold. Under the Austrian dynasty, at the close of the 15th century, the rebellious conduct of the inhabitants of Bruges called upon it such destructive vengeance that henceforth its greatness died away, its trade was transferred to Antwerp, and the religious persecution and ferocity of the Spanish under Philip II and the Duke of Alva completed the process of its ruin. During the wars of the Spanish and Austrian successions the city was besieged by the Dutch and the French. In 1794 it was taken by the latter, and from 1814 to 1830 it belonged to the Netherlands. In 1914 it was taken by the Germans and held by them during the war. With Zeebrugge it formed an important base for the fitting out of submarines in the undersea campaign directed against England's commerce. The remains of ancient buildings, abandoned monasteries and streets half deserted from the diminished population of the modern city give Bruges an antiquated and venerable appearance. Many of the houses are very old, but in a state of excellent preservation. Bruges is still, by means of its canals, an entrepôt of Belgian commerce. The chief articles manufactured here are lace, linen, damasks, light woolen goods, cottons, mixed stuffs, beer, etc. It exports agricultural produce and manufactured goods, and imports wine, oil, colonial produce, etc. Pop. 54,000. Consult Gilliat-Smith, ‘Bruges’ (in ‘Mediæval Towns Series,’ 1901); Duclos, ‘Bruges; histoire et souvenirs’ (1910).