On the Grote Markt, the Belfry of Bruges is the tallest tower and one of the most iconic structural elements of the city. When it was built, in 1240, it was meant for different functions. On the ground floor, it was the cloth and wool hall. On the upper floors, the municipal public service was installed. A treasure room was set up and the city’s archives were kept in there. From the balcony of the tower, the laws and regulations of the city were announced. Higher, an observation tower was used for fast emergency intervention. Within its walls were the carillon and the official city clock. The chimes announced different times of the day to the locals: opening and closing of the city gates, beginning and end of the working day, the start of nightfall and when travel should be done with a torch.
The original structure, made of wood, was destroyed by a fire in 1280. The archives disappeared in fumes. The tower was rebuilt in 1296 but the town hall and archives were moved to another location. In 1493, lightning damaged the imposing structure and in 1741, another fire wreaked havoc again. The bells date from 1745 and the tower was rebuilt again over a long period of time until 1822.
Gothic in style, it has an imposing square which indicates the prosperity of the place. Its architecture is, in my eye, on four configurations. We find a wide rectangular section as a solid base where we find the vendor stands. The tower is placed centrally at the base and begins with two square sections, the second narrower than the first and finally an octagonal model finalizes the tower. All in height, style and details, it looks like a crown sits on top. Take a step back and notice the slight tilt of the belfry.
Note the medallion on the front presents the seal of the city.
For a few euros, it is possible to climb the 366 steps to reach an observation platform. Some landings feature historic elements of the tower, including the carillon.
This emblematic belfry of 83 meters (272ft) includes its 47 bells which now ring every 15 minutes, a melody which comes to smoothly fill the place. In the evening, the tower is gently and richly illuminated.
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