Don’t look for a steeple or a typical large-scale religious building to find this spiritual place. Truly, its exterior appearance is relatively modest. The three front entrance portals in the shape of pointed arches unite the two religious sites, each located at their level. A landmark, the golden sculptures on the outside and its gray facade, give a rich and austere detail at the same time to the whole of the work which, since 1923, has been officially qualified as a basilica.
The few steps lead to the upper chapel, the one dedicated to the Holy Blood. On the lower floor, the oldest (built between 1134-1149) of the two chapels is dedicated to Saint-Basile. The latter was originally a private place, attached to the residence of the Count of Flanders who requested it for his personal needs. The residence is now the site of the city town hall.
The chapel of Holy Blood was specially built in 1480 to glorify a precious treasure. In 1149, on his return from a crusade directly from Jerusalem, the count’s chaplain, Leonius de Furnes, who was accompanied by Louis VII of France and Thierry of Alsace, returned to Bruges with an invaluable souvenir. This treasure was kept secret until 1291. It was then revealed that under the roof of the chapel was a piece of cloth used to wipe the body of Christ after his crucifixion and having traces of his blood on it. This treasure led to the construction of the second chapel above Saint-Basile.
Once the sacred object was unveiled, the community wanted to preserve its privilege of holding this treasure. Subsequently and since 1303, annually, the Holy Blood is honored in the city at the Ascension (i.e. 40 days after Easter) by a great feast and parade.
It is on the Bourg Square that you will find this basilica alongside the town hall.
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