Bruges, Belgium

Bruges scenes from left: The great Belfort under stormy skies; one of Bruges' many canals at dusk; the Church of Our Lady. Photos © Sacred Destinations.

Bruges (Bruges in French and English; Brugge in Dutch) is home to several historic churches and an important Catholic shrine that is said to hold the very blood of Christ. Founded in the 13th century as a cloth manufacturing town, Bruges soon became one of the wealthiest cities in Europe. Fortunately, unlike so many other European cities, Bruges has remained unravaged by war and has preserved its glorious monumental buildings intact. In fact, it is one of the most perfectly preserved medieval cities in Europe - which UNESCO has recognized by designating the historic center a World Heritage Site.

Basilica of the Holy Blood
This beautiful 12th-century basilica on Burg Square houses a very sacred relic - a vial said to contain the coagulated blood of Christ, collected at the crucifixion by Joseph of Arimathea.
Church of Our Lady
Built from the 13th to 15th centuries, the Onze-Lieve-Vrouwekerk has a soaring spire that can be seen for miles around. And inside is a great treasure: the only sculpture by Michaelangelo outside Italy.
Jerusalem Church
This unique church was built in 1428 by a rich pilgrim recently returned from Jerusalem. Modeled on the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, it includes a macabre altar and a replica of Christ's tomb.
Bruges Cathedral
This fine 12th-century church only became a cathedral in 1834. The tower was accordingly raised, in a sensitive Romanesque style, to surpass the nearby Church of Our Lady.