EXPERT MEETING BRUGES

October 21-23 we held our second international expert meeting in Bruges, reflecting on the progress of the project. After a short introduction to the project and general state of the art by Professor Krista De Jonge, we continued with a progress report of the PhD project “Residential systems in the Habsburg Low Countries: the Croÿ case”. The presentation focused on how we can determine the relative importance of residences within the broad network (often spanning the entire southern part of the Low Countries), applied to the Croÿ residences in Brussels and Beaumont.

The expert meeting was combined with visits to some of the noble residences, still existing within Bruges. On Friday we started with a visit to Hof van Watervliet (Oude Burg 27), the former residence of Jan III de Baenst (????-1486). The family de Baenst was originally part of the lower nobility, but in the fifteenth century they manage to climb in social status under the Burgundian dukes in the county of Flanders. Not only was he one of the most influential political figures of Bruges, he also played a very important role in the development of the cultural life in Bruges.

For a complete history of the building: http://www.hofvanwatervliet.be  

The second day of the expert meeting started with a presentation by Pieter Martens, post-doc on the project. He explained how his expertise in military architecture will contribute to the project, as many of the residences were situated in important border areas. After a vivid discussion we continued the day with visits to the noble residences within the city. The Hof van Bladelin (Naaldenstraat 19-21) belonged to Pieter Bladelin, counsellor to Duke Philip of Burgundy and treasurer of the Order of the Gulden Fleece. Befor the 1440s, Bladelin owned another house near the Prince’s Court – Princenhof-, which served as bachelors residence to the duke’s heir, Charles (count of Charolais, later known as Charles the Bold).

The original house was built by Pieter Bladelin before 1451, after which the consecutive owners made several adjustments or enlargements. In 1466 it was Piero de Medici who owned the palace and his arms and emblem can be found in the portico along the street. On the courtyard façade of this portico, two medallions with the busts of Lorenzo de Medici and his wife Clarice Orsini were added (possibly in 1469). However the Medici bank in Bruges quickly declined after Charles the Bold’s death in Nancy in 1477. There have been several restoration campaigns, which makes it not easy to determine the actual building phases on site.

In the afternoon we visited Hof van Adornes and the Jerusalem Chapel (Peperstaraat 1-3). The residence , built by Pieter Adornes, consists of two superposed halls and chambers at the front with a spiral staircase connecting the different floors. The dimensions of this wing express the  high aspirations of the commissioner, as important figure in the Bruges politics and intimus of the Burgundian dukes. Perpendicular to these great halls was the service wing, connected to the chapel by a gallery supported on an arcade. This gallery arrives at the upper sanctuary of the church and is flanked by the family oratory, looking out over the two sanctuaries (upper and lower) of the Jerusalem church. This church was added to the site by Anselm Adornes (son of Pieter), after his voyage to Jerusalem in 1470. The tomb of Anselm Adornes and his wife Margareta Van der Bank stands in the middle of the main space.

From the Adornes residence we moved to Hof van Gruuthuse, the city museum that is currently under restoration. Thanks to the cooperation of the city of Bruges we could enter the former residence of the lords of Gruuthuse as well as their oratory looking out over the altar of the church of Our Lady. The lords of Gruuthuse obtained the monopoly on gruit, the mix of herbs at the basis of beer (before hops were used), maybe before the fourteenth century. This constituted the basis of their fortune. Louis of Gruuthuse belonged to the higher strata of the Burgundian court both under Philip the Good and Charles the Bold, receiving the order of the Golden Fleece in 1461. He married Margaret, countess of Borssele and a member of one of the most important families of Zealand in 1455. While renovating his ancestral house, from 1463 to 1477 Louis served as lieutenant‐general of the counties of Holland, Zealand and Frisia (the latter not actually part of the Low Countries, but it had an important role in the image‐building of the Burgundian dukes as successors to the mythical Frisian kings). In the winter of 1470‐1471 he gave sanctuary to Edward IV and his brother Richard, and was rewarded with the hereditary title of earl of Winchester, a rare honour to be bestowed upon a foreigner. He negotiated Mary of Burgundy’s marriage to Archduke Maximilian of Habsburg, becoming chamberlain to their son Philip at his birth in 1478. He turned against Maximilian like many noblemen after Mary’s death, dying in disgrace in 1492.

The core of the actual Museum goes back to the fifteenth century but was thoroughly renovated by the noted architect Louis Delacenserie of Bruges in the last quarter of the nineteenth century (1883‐1895).

In 1472 Louis of Gruuthuse completes the oratory next to the ambulatory of the church of Our Lady, adjacent to the house to the south. Here some of the oldest preserved elements of the residence can be found. Under a pointed barrel vault the lords of Gruuthuse could go their praying bank while being confronted with their sins by little wooden creatures holding up mirrors. This small gallery and oratory must have been decorated very richly with the most exquisite colours and decorations.

On the residences in Bruges:

 

  1. Devliegher, De huizen te Brugge, Tielt: Lannoo, 1968 (revised edition in 1975).

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