Holy Blood

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A bottle containing what many believe to be the blood of Jesus is kept in a chapel at Bruges, Belgium. Once a year, on Ascension Day, the bottle is carried through the city during the Procession of the Holy Blood. Fortean Picture Library.

Holy Blood (Bruges, Belgium)

(religion, spiritualism, and occult)

On Ascension Day each May, visitors to and citizens of the city of Bruges, Belgium, participate in the Procession of the Holy Blood, an annual pageant in which a bottle believed to contain the blood of Jesus Christ is carried through the city. The activities include a reenactment of the arrival of the Count of Flanders, who brought the bottle to Bruges originally in the thirteenth century.

Throughout the year, the vial of blood is kept in the chapel of the Holy Blood on the central square in Bruges. The church was originally built in the twelfth century, with a second story added in the fifteenth. It has subsequently gone through several extensive renovations. The blood, originally kept on what is now the ground level, rests on a silver altar in the church’s upper level. It is on public view each Friday and every day from May 3 through May 17. Adjacent to the church is a museum that details the story of the Holy Blood and contains other items of value owned by the church.

The bottle that contains the substance, which is believed to be blood, is made of crystal and seems to date to the eleventh or twelfth century. It was probably made in Constantinople (modern-day Istanbul) as a container for perfume. The occasion for the bottle and its blood being brought to Belgium was the Sixth Crusade in the 1220s. Jerusalem fell to the Muslims in 1244. The earliest mention of the annual procession is from a charter of the Unloaders’ Guild from 1291.

Although the procession is part of the annual May festivities, the tradition that Diederik van den Elzas, Count of Flanders, brought drops of the Holy Blood from Jerusalem in 1149 and the belief that said blood was preserved by Joseph of Arimathea, the person mentioned in the Bible as facilitating the burial of Jesus after the crucifixion, are generally discounted today.

Sources:

“The Holy Blood.” http://www.holyblood.com/EN/0.asp. Accessed April 1, 2007.