The elegant interior of the St. Walburga Church. Bruges, Belgium.
I always thought that the severe asceticism of Catholic churches (unlike Orthodox churches) was the general rule. Indeed, plenty of gold should not interrupt your private talking with God. It was ascetic in Notre-Dame de Paris, Riga Cathedral, Milan Cathedral, or Basilica of Saint Mary of the Flower in Florence.
We even entered the bright and merry cathedral of Florence. It was a bad idea. There, asceticism was driven to extremes. It seemed like the interior of the cathedral simply was not finished. It was too grim. Therefore, a real culture shock was waiting for us in Bruges, Belgium, when we entered the St. Walburga Church.
The St. Walburga Church (Sint-Maartensplein 1619-43 Brugge) was the Jesuit church in the 17th century. Initially, it was dedicated to Our Lady, but after 1773, when Pope Clement XIV suppressed the Society of Jesus, it became the St. Walburga Church, then St. Donatian Church, and again the St. Walburga Church. It was almost completely destroyed in 1944 (rebuilt later on); only the facade remained undamaged. The church is rather ascetic outside, but …
The St. Walburga Church. Bruges, Belgium.
The street is empty. This is definitely not a tourist area. The doors of the parish church are invitingly open.
“Lets go in?”
And … Wow!!!!
It was unbelievably clean, spacious, and stylish inside, without rampant colors. Simple, but incredibly pleasant just like the little black dress by Coco Chanel with the Eye of Time brooch by Salvador Dali.
Of course, there were many icons, but they were not flat as is usual. They were real paintings; moreover, works of art.
The beautiful interior of the St. Walburga Church
The wooden staircase was warm. Bas-reliefs and sculptures were virtuosic and gorgeous. I would have spent hours looking at them. Without any doubt, they are the works of a Master.
Well, well, well … It seems like we should look INSIDE churches of Bruges, and not just inspect them outside. Another spire is seen nearby. OK, let’s verify our hypothesis.
This is the spire of Saint Annes Church (Sint-Annaplein 8000 Brugge). The building of the church was begun at the end of the 15th century. After the victory of the Protestants during the Dutch Revolution, this Catholic church (like many others in Bruges) was abandoned and stayed in ruins until 1611, when it started its second life. During the next 13 years, it was rebuilt.
We entered it. The same thing!!!!! This is a real museum of Flemish art.
The magnificent interior of Saint Anne’s Church
Look at the twisted wooden columns. What a fantasy!
There are some features in common with the Jesuit church, but Saint Annes Church is completely different.
Again, we saw incredibly warm and alive wood carving.
I was sitting on a bench near the confessional enjoying delicately carved heads of wooden women. Wait a minute! Their torsos seem to be masculine, and the knee of one of them does not look like that of a female. Slowly, I started to understand: they are angels. They are sexless. The sculptor decided to express their asexuality as a mix of all the sexual characteristics.
The confessional of Saint Anne’s Church
Struck by such wondrous beauty which seemed almost purposely hidden from organized tourist groups, we understood: it is so typical for people to ignore things which are right under their nose! We have seen an unassuming church from the window of our small house in Bruges every day, walked by it many times, and never guessed to look inside it! So let’s correct this mistake.
Ecclesia Jerusalem Brugensis (the Jerusalem Church of Bruges) is noticeable from a distance due to its high octagonal tower with a symbolic globe on top; the appearance is more than strange for a church. The historical center of Bruges is very close, but it is quiet and empty here. The church is tiny, and it has a very unusual interior. The small prayer room has no support columns. The stony model of Golgotha is located between two elegant staircases.
The stone model of Golgotha in the Jerusalem Church of Bruges
The church is clearly different from the temples which we have seen earlier. May be it is due to the fact that it’s private property?
This church is clearly different from ones we have seen earlier. Maybe, it is due to the fact that it is private property? Ecclesia Jerusalem Brugensis was erected by three generations of a wealthy family of Adornes in medieval Belgian Bruges. They decided to build a stone church near their mansion in the early 15th century, but first, as the legend says, the brothers Jacob and Peter Adornes made the pilgrimage to Jerusalem.
The church was built in 1479 and now belongs to the special fund headed by Count Henri de Limburg-Stirum. In the middle of the hall, there are two tombstones of the spouses Anselm Adornes and Margaretha Van der Banck who completed the construction of the church.
Ecclesiastical decorations and attributes are preserved in their original form.
Stained-glass windows are dated from the late 15th to early 16th centuries.
The so-called Little Altar is located beyond the crypt and has a very low entrance. Going into it, you sort of bow down to the Creator, since the crypt is an imitation of the Holy Sepulchre. Therefore Ecclesia Jerusalem Brugensis is sometimes called the Bruges Church of the Holy Sepulchre.
Bruges is full of churches; they are at every turn. We saw the interiors of only three of them, and they completely different from one another. Well, there is a strong reason to come back and check them all.