The Begijnhof - Béguinage of Kortrijk is one of the 26 Flemish Béguinages on the UNESCO List of World Heritage. Most Flemish towns have one, sometimes two, Begijnhoven-Béguinages.
They are architectural ensembles in specific Flemish style composed of houses, churches, ancillary buildings and green spaces in which lived Begijnen-Béguines.
They were women who dedicated their lives to God without retiring from the world. They were founded in the 13th century in the present Belgium, Netherlands, Germany and Northern France. Except two in Holland, the preserved beguinages are all located in the Flemish part of Belgium.
There are no beguines anymore(*) and the beguinages have been transformed in museums, cultural centres, artist ateliers, residences for old people or flats for students like in Leuven. The one of Brugge is now a convent.
With 42 houses the Begijnhof of Kortrijk is a medium sized one. The large ones have about 100 houses. The largest in Lier has 162 houses in 11 streets!
(*) Actually there is one beguine, born in 1920, from Kortrijk, still alive but she lives no more in the Begijnhof but in a hospital in Kortrijk.
Several hundreds of golden spurs belonging to French knights who lost life at the battle of the Groeningekouter in 1302 were hung at the vault of the Onze-Lieve-Vrouw church.
Not for long, in 1382 French mercenaries who had defeated the militias of Gent at the battle of Westrozebeke plundered the church and stole the golden spurs. Those we see now are replicas.
Westrozebeke was another feudal battle as there were so many in Flanders; this time Filip van Artevelde at the head of the revolted people from Gent (who lost the battle) fought the French army commanded by Philippe le Hardi - Philip the Bold duke of Burgundy and son in law of the count of Flanders Lodewijk II van Male.
The misfortunes of the church continued with plundering and destruction in 1578 by the Dutch Geuzen (Beggars). In 1797 French troops invaded Kortrijk and plundered again the church. This was not the end: in 1944 the Germans did steel the 6 ton clock and a few months later the church and the town were bombed.
I presume that the golden spurs we see now were hung on the vaults after WW II.
The Museum about the battle of the "Golden Spurs" is essentially an audio guide museum.
A lot of explanations are given by the audio guide ( several languages) included in the entry price but little historic material is shown about that battle of Groeninge. The reason is that not much exists anymore.
The comments are interesting because they highlight the political, economical, fiscal, social, military aspects of that conflict between, actually a part of Flanders and the French King Philippe IV le Bel, suzerain of the County of Flanders. It was interesting to show the premises and the historic complexity of the conflict.
Also interesting but better known are the tactical aspects of this battle where infantry destroyed heavy cavalry.
The film projection following the visit shows the evolution of this feudal conflict to a Flemish nationalist political movement leading to the transformation of Belgium in a federal (co federal?) state.
Open: each day.
1/04 - 30/09 from 10 to 18 h
1/10 - 31/03 from 10 to 17 h.
Price: 6 €, reduced 4€ or 1 €.
The "Gravenkapel" Count’s chapel built in 1370-1374 on behalf of Count Lodewijk van Male is quite remarkable for its elegance.
The chapel is best known for the portraits of all Counts of Flanders painted on the walls. Lodewijk van Male and his 31 predecessors were painted by Jan van Hasselt in 1378. His successors till Emperor Charles Quint - Keizer Karel (Carlos I in Spain) were added later by various artists. There have been many restaurations of the paintings who had been overcoated with chalk around 1800!
What I most liked in the chapel is the albaster statue (1382) of Holy Catherine to whom the chapel is dedicated. The sculptor was André Beauneveu. He made here an admirable statue with a slightly déhanché port and a kind but impersonal smile. Holy Catherine keeps in her left hand the breaking wheel on wich she was tormented and in the right hand the sword of her beheading.
Quite remarkable statue protected behind glass. In 1556 the statue had to be burried to protect her from the iconoclasts.
Kortrijk 1302 museum would probably not exist if Hendrik Conscience had not written in 1838 the historic novel "De Leeuw van Vlaanderen" ("The Lion of Flanders") exalting the national feeling and pride of Flemish people under the tyranny (the flemish word "dwingeland" is often used in the book) of king of France Philippe IV le Bel (1268-1314).
The "Leeuw van Vlaanderen - Lion of Flanders" is Robrecht III of Bethune, count of Nevers and Flanders. Here Conscience made a serious historical error because Robert of Bethune was not present at the battle of the Golden Spurs!
This historic novel is one of the first books for adults I read.
It is a book of about 350 pages, small print, with a complex and elaborated Flemish vocabulary. I read it at the age of ten (*) but didn't like the first part with the love story between Machteld, the daughter of count Robrecht, and the knight Adolf van Nieuwlandt. My favoured chapters were the battles of the "Brugse Metten" and the final battle of Groeninge "Guldensporenslag".
* Note: when I was a child there was no TV so that reading books was not homework but an appreciated form of leisure.
In a chapel of the left transept hangs the "The Raising of the Cross" by Antoon van Dyck. The painting ordered by canon Braye arrived in Kortrijk in 1631 coming from Antwerp where Van Dyck was active. The painter received 600 Florins for this large painting in the style of Rubens.
The French revolutionaries took the painting in 1794 and it was only in 1817 that this work was recuperated.
I agree with other VT members visiting the church that there are more popular paintings by Van Dyck than this one.
I liked the baroque high altar but found no information about it.
As a kid I had read the book "De Leeuw van Vlaanderen" from Hendrik Conscience. A famous historic novel (at least in Flanders) about the battle between Flanders and the King of France Philippe le Bel in 1302.
Standing here in front of that monument (1902) on the very place of the battle I felt quite disappointed.
This garden surrounded by cosy villas does not corresponded at all with my imagination of that ferocious deadly fight between the French chivalry and the Flemish militia.
Furthermore the style of the monument by Godfried Devreese, a gilded bronze statue representing the triumphant Virgin of Flanders holding a lion under control, did not arouse a great enthusiasm with me.
It was a bad idea to come here; a destruction of my childhood's imagination as inspired by the novel!
Visit the 'Our Lady Church' with the famous 'Chappel of the Counts of Flanders'.
This church was originally built inside the walls of the first medieval castle of Courtrai, and at the outside, you can still see the remains of the castles walls. It's really a beautiful church and one of the oldest buildings in Courtrai.
In the 'Counts-chappel', you can see paintings of all the counts that have ruled Flanders.
this beautiful medieval part of the city is like a small, quite village inside the busy centre. The whole Beguinage is part of the UNESCO world heritage, so I guess, when you visit Courtrai, you just can't miss this!
In many of the Belgian towns you can see extensive remains of city walls, tower and defensive arrangements, but here in Kortrijk all that remains are these two towers, built in the 12th and 13th century.
Also included in this pic are Lea and Patrick, our Belgian friends and guides, and Zohara.
The Baggaertshof found by Josijne Baggaert, he made 13 small houses for destitute (hope this is the right translation) women.
One of those houses is still decorated.
The most needed things where available in those days, a chair, a table a bed and a cooking- range that's all.
There were strict rules for the women, for instance they had to be home early to ring the bell of the chapel. They had to be in the chapel at 8.00 pm every night to pray and thank their benefactor.
The other two pictures are sculptures at the herb garden.
The meeting start at 11.30 at the cafeteria of the railway station.
From there the tour through the city start.
This is a picture of Baggaertshof dates from the first part of the 17th century.
It contain lovely house from the middle ages, a chapel and a herb garden.
This monument is protected and often called second Beguinage of Kortrijk.
YPRES/IEPER : Take a walk along the 'Vestingroute Ieper'
This is a 2.6 km walk on the ancient fortress around the city.
On the route, there are about 23 info signs distributed.
They tell you about the turbulent history of the town, the evolution from mediaeval citywall to the French fortress complex, the growth of the town, …
On the other hand, these signs also give information about the fauna & flora in this area.
The fortresses of Ypres belong to the best preserved of Belgium.
The TOWN HALL was built in a late gothic-renaissance style. The Aldermen's Chamber, on the ground floor, was used as a court. Upstairs, the Council Hall was the place where laws were made in the old days. Both rooms have a mantelpiece dating back to the 16th century. The sculptors are still unknown. Please take notice of the stained window glasses and the mural paintings. Two topographic maps are to be seen on the walls of the Council Chamber: the left one is a map of the 'Kasselrij', the one on the right-hand side represents the city of Kortrijk and its surrounding area (1641).After leaving the Town Hall, we take a look at the facade of the building, decorated with the statues of the Counts of Flanders. Now we are standing on the Market Square, in the middle of which we can see the Belfry.
You can see this Cowboy Henk statue along the Spoorweglaan in Kortrijk.
I had seen this statue in a program on a local TV-channel. So went to Kortrijk to see it, but I did not find it, at first I thought it was located at the Hoge. But later on with some help from the Touristy department of Kortrijk, I did find him.
Cowboy Henk has a leading role in his own comic strip.
Cowboy Henk is drawn by Herr Seele and the scenarios are made by Kamagurka.
You also can follow the stories of Cowboy Henk in the weekly periodical Humo.
This picture is made beginning of January, that is why Cowboy Henk is wearing a red Santa Claus hat.