Holy Blood Basilica, Brugge, Belgium

This very strange church is one of Belgium's holiest sites. Tucked away in a corner of the Burg square the church was built to hold the relic of the Holy Blood, reputedly a phial of blood washed from Christ by Joseph of Arimathea. It found its way to Belgium in 1150. The oldest part of the church is the lower chapel, built in the 12th Century to hold the relics of St. Basil. You then walk up a large staircase into the upper chapel, built slightly later.

The Holy Blood relic is stored inside a tabernacle made of silver presented by Albert and Isabella of Spain around 1611.

When the relic first arrived in Brugge it was found to be dry, but it liquified on Fridays at 6pm - a feat that continued until 1325 when it was declared miraculous. Every Friday the phial is removed and paraded around the church - once a year on Ascension Day it is paraded around town. I was lucky enough to catch the end of the ceremony on my visit.

The exterior of the church looks more like a guildhouse than a religious building, and has gilt statues set into the dark stonework.

Photo - Andrew J. Müller

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