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Bruges (bro͞ozh, Fr. brüzh) or Brugge (brŭˈgə, Du. brüpstr;khə), city, capital of West Flanders prov., NW Belgium, connected by canal with Zeebrugge (on the North Sea), its outer port. It is a rail junction as well as a commercial, industrial, and tourist center. Manufactures include lace, textiles, ships, railroad cars, communications equipment, chemicals, processed food, and industrial glass.

Bruges was founded on an inlet of the North Sea in the 9th cent. and became (11th cent.) a center of trade with England. In the 13th cent. it flourished as the major entrepôt port of the Hanseatic League and as one of the chief wool-processing centers of Flanders. New ports (notably Sluis) were founded to help accommodate its increasing trade. At its zenith (14th cent.), Bruges was one of the major commercial hubs of Europe. An early commune of the Low Countries, the city held extensive political privileges and often played a part in the chronic struggle between England, France, and the counts of Flanders. Its government, at first in patrician hands, gradually passed to the trade guilds of the wool industry.

When Philip IV of France annexed Flanders in 1301, Bruges led the rebellion against him. The French garrison was massacred (1302), and shortly afterward the citizen-army of Bruges was led to victory in the Battle of the Spurs. Despite frequent political disturbances, Bruges continued to prosper until the Flemish wool industry declined (early 15th cent.) as a result of foreign competition. In addition, the North Sea inlet on which Bruges was located silted up completely by 1490, and the city lost its access to the sea and to its outer ports. By c.1500, Antwerp had replaced Bruges as the chief entrepôt of N Europe. The commercial and industrial revival of Bruges began only in 1895, with the start of extensive repairs to its port; in 1907 the Zeebrugge canal was opened. The city was occupied by the Germans in World Wars I and II.

Bruges was the cradle of Flemish art during the rule (14th–15th cent.) of the Burgundian dukes in Flanders. Jan van Eyck, Gerard David, and many other masters are richly represented in the churches, public buildings, and museums of the city. Among its noted structures are the Hospital of St. John (12th cent.), containing several masterpieces by Hans Memling; the 13th-century market hall or cloth-workers hall, with its famous carillon; the city hall (14th cent.); the Church of Notre Dame (13th–15th cent.), with the tombs of Charles the Bold and Mary of Burgundy and with Michelangelo's Virgin; the Cathedral of St. Salvator (begun 10th cent.); and the Chapel of the Precious Blood (begun 12th cent.), a major site of pilgrimage. The Procession of Holy Blood, an annual religious pageant, takes place on Ascension Day.

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The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.



(French; Flemish, Brugge—literally, bridge), a city in Belgium. Administrative center of the province of West Flanders. Population in 1969, 51,300. A seaport with outlying ports on the North Sea at Zeebrugge and Ostend. It has a network of shipping canals: the Bruges-Zeebrugge canal, the Bruges-Ostend canal, and the Bruges-Ghent canal. Its industries include metalworking, ship repair, textiles, food, and the ancient art of lace-making. It is a tourist center.

The city was first mentioned in the seventh century; it acquired the status of a medieval city in the tenth century. At the end of the 11th century it became the residence of the counts of Flanders. During the 11th—13th centuries, Bruges, which lay at the crossroads of important trade routes, became one of the most important European centers for guild handicrafts (weaving of English wool) and international trade and later for international credit operations as well. From the middle of the 13th century and in the 14th century the trade of Bruges passed into the hands of foreign merchants. Bruges was the largest entrepôt of the Hanseatic League. In the bitter political struggle that took place in medieval Flanders, Bruges often played a decisive role—for example, the Bruges matins in 1302 and the part played by the guilds in the Battle of Courtrai in 1302. The struggle between the guilds and the nobles continued. Success fluctuated between the two sides: thus the guilds were successful in 1302 but were defeated in 1328. In the 15th century, when capitalist relations began to develop in Flanders, Bruges, which had basically preserved its feudal forms of production, lost its former economic and political importance.

The special architectural appearance of Bruges is the result of its artificially maintained medieval appearance—for example, old narrow houses and Gothic edifices, churches, and belfries combined with many canals (from which rise the walls of the houses) and curved bridges.

The Halles with the town belfry (1283-1482) dominates the main square, the Grote Markt. The town hall (1376-1421) and the Chapel of the Holy Blood (c. 1480) are on Burg Square. Bruges’ churches include the cathedral of St. Salvatorskerk (12th-18th centuries), and the Church of Notre Dame (1210-1549), with Michelangelo’s Virgin and Child and the bronze coffin of Mary of Burgundy and Charles the Bold (16th century). The Halles, the Gruuthuse (1420-1470), and the Potterij Hospital (1276) are museums of Netherlands art; the H. Memling Museum is in the assembly hall of the Hôpital of St. Jean; and the Municipal Gallery contains a valuable collection of Dutch paintings.


Pirenne, H. Srednevekovye goroda Bel’gii. Moscow, 1937. (Translated from French.)
Luykx, Th., and J. L. Broeckx. Brugge. Antwerp, 1943.
The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.


a city in NW Belgium, capital of West Flanders province: centre of the medieval European wool and cloth trade. Pop.: 117 025 (2004 est.)
Collins Discovery Encyclopedia, 1st edition © HarperCollins Publishers 2005
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