Almshouses are small dwellings, usually around a central courtyard, created to provide living space for the 'deserving elderly poor' long before any state help was available. They exist in the UK too.
Bruges has an enormous number of almshouses. It was a sign of wealth (and a Good Thing from a religious point of view) to endow almshouses in one's name, so the wealthy Bruges merchants and their guilds did so. It's nice to see that so many of them still exist.
Many of them are, so I was told, still used as 'sheltered' housing for the elderly or those with disabilities.
One of the oldest almshouses is on Hauwerstraat, which leads from the western corner of T'Zand. It dates from 1436. There are others dotted about the city, so keep your eyes open.
All around the city you are surrounded by old buildings and quiet corners with architectural styles beginning with the 13th century all the way to modern, some styles seem to have been imposed on a different style, creating a quite confused mix at times. I heard the term "eye candy", meaning something sweet to the sight and I think it would aptly apply here.
“On the Saturday after Easter I set out to go to Brugge with Hans Lüber and with Master Jan Ploos, a good painter of Bruges.”
— from the journals of Albrecht Dürer (1471-1528)
THE GLORIOUS LEO Is your astrological sign Leo, the lion? If it is, or if you travel with some who is a Leo as I do, let me suggest a fun way to recognize the Leo in your life and in the process take some unique and fun photos: pose with architectural and decorative lions.
Throughout Brugge you will find plenty of lions to pose with because the lion is part of the coat-of-arms of the city of Brugge and Flanders (De leeuw van Vlaanderen). There are indoor and outdoor lions; old and modern ones; large and small lions; some are on doors as knockers, while others are integrated into fountains; there’s a lion for every Leo in Brugge.
The coat-of-arms that appears on the municipal flag of Brugge is horizontally divided into eight white and red stripes with a blue lion overlayed at the center (see photo #5). The lion has a yellow crown and necklace with a small yellow cross and red claws. It was adopted by the Municipal Council on 26.October.1982; the Executive of Flanders ratified the selection on 1.July.1986.
The municipal arms were granted by a Dutch Royal Decree on 20.October.1819 and re-affirmed by a Belgian Royal Decree on 26.February.1842.
The oldest known seal of the city of Brugge dates from 1199. It is made up of a fortress and fleurs-de-lis. The coat-of-arms first appeared on a third seal of the late 13th century. This seal still shows a fortress, and its base is a small shield with the bars and lion. In the seal from 1289 the number of bars was increased form six to eight. The meaning of the bars, however is not known. The coat-of-arms were officially granted by the Count of Vlaanderen in 1304. The lion is borrowed from the coat-of-arms of the Counts of Vlaanderen, but shown in a different color, blue instead of black. The colors are known since the 14th century.
“Bruges is a grey, silent town with crow-step gables to the house fronts, its shadows being shot with the gleams from canals that run through the streets. Its roof-level is dominated by an immense belfry from which there descend chimes. The chimes are practically never silent. Beautifully and drowsily five minutes before every quarter of the hour they begin to announce that the quarter is about to strike; for ten minutes after the quarter has struck they go on announcing that the quarter has struck. The hour is greeted for a quarter of an hour by chimes that announce that the hour is about to strike; for forty-five minutes after the hour has struck they continue to announce that the hour has struck. The hours and the quarters are struck on great bells whose overtones go on reverberating for fifty and for ten minutes respectively.”
—from “Joseph Conrad: A Personal Remembrance” 1924 by Ford Madox Ford
Crow-step gables are a familiar sight on the skyline of Brugge. The style was popular from the 14th through the 18th century; and enjoyed resurgence in 1880, when restoration work was carried out in the city.
It is thought that this style originated in Amsterdam or in Lubeck, Germany, where, like in Brugge, many buildings overlook canals and quaysides.
This is not the official name of the house, I just made it up. It's on the Minderbroedersstraat and I liked its medieval quality, well maintained too.