The oldest mention of the present procession is to be found in a charter of the Unloaders'Guild (1291). From it we learn that the guilds of Bruges were obliged to participate in the procession. Probably the Holy Blood was exhibited in the chapel on the Burg before 1291. And it is presumably from this custom that the procession originated.
From 1303 onwards one hears of a Holy Blood procession going round the city walls. Because the relic was town-property the procession was, of course, a civil and an official occasion in which horsemen, guildsmen and artisans, marksmen, city councillors and, naturally, the clergy, in all their splendour march with the relic.
In the 15th and 16th centuries, profane scenes with giants, the Ros Bayard with the four sons of Aymon, as also the chambers of rhetoric of the city, were added to the biblical scenes (mystery plays). Due to the religious disturbances in 1578 it was considered safer to cease carrying the relic around outside the city gates. So, for the first time, the procession took place in the city centre and followed the course which, today, it still follows
Between 1578 and 1584, Bruges had a Calvinist regime. The procession was banned and the relic was taken to a place of safety. At the time of the Counter-revolution (17th century), and also in the 18th century the procession regained its religious character.
The procession is conceived in a style dating back to Bruges' golden age (15th century), when Bruges was one of the most important harbours north of the Alps, and also a bustling commercial market and residence of the Burgundian dukes. During that period remarkable works of art were produced by the Flemish Primitives
The procession of the Holy Blood tries to answer the questions every man has on the meaning of his own life and on the existence of the world. Everyone wishes to be deeply happy.
That happiness has different names, according to the cultural background, called by some "Nirvana", by others "Heaven", or, in the biblical tradition :"'The Kingdom of God", "Sion" or "the new Jerusalem".
The procession is divided into four parts :
The Old Testament
The old myths tell of existential matters concerning the life of man.
The paradise, the banishment of Adam and Eve, the fratricide :
The creation was entrusted to man by God. By serving the Creator he preserves and protects creation. He gives names to all creatures and, in doing so, he becomes fellow-creator with God. But man is at the same time good and bad. The greatest sin is the pride from which envy and quarrelling originate. Because evil is rooted in man, he passes his life seeking for happiness, peace and the meaning of his existence. He is looking for lost paradise …
Erring man :
Invited by God, Abraham departed from his country for a strange, but better land to begin his life anew. Abraham let himself be led by God, in whom he trusted : it's the Covenant of God with his people.
The outcast man becomes the savior:
Joseph, his father Jacobs' favorite son, was sold by his brothers : since humanity exists, people leave their "brother" behind. Some do not even shrink from killing their kinsmen. Joseph, promoted Pharaoh's adviser, became his brothers' savior when they were driven to Egypt by hunger. In this way, Joseph is the prefiguration of Jesus Christ, who, as outcast, brings new life to humanity.
The New Testament
Christ was born in a carpenter's family, in an insignificant spot and it was the simple ones, the shepherds, who first received the joyous message. It means for the searcher after truth that he has to make a complete change in his ideas if he wishes to discover the deepest meaning of life.
The three kings, three wise men, come to Jesus from different parts of the earth, bringing with them the wisdom of Western, Eastern and African culture in order to attest that Christ is the answer to the question of life's meaning. Later on, the Child Jesus is talking to the teachers with depth and wisdom and He blesses the children because they are holy and receptive for God.
Jesus Christ gives the answer to the meaning of life
After being scourged and crowned with thorns, Jesus climbs up the Golgotha carrying his cross.
He is the symbol of suffering and at the same time of the everlasting life and of trust in love. The resurrection of Jesus, the central point of the Christian faith, means He is close to all who come to Him and, in doing so, live in joy and in peace.
|The relic of the precious blodd and the chapel where it's kept|
Preceded by heralds, flags and a band, Count Derrick and his followers came to Bruges in order to hand over the relic as a sign of the new Jerusalem.
They were acclaimed by the people of Bruges, even by the wealthy.
The Veneration of The Holy- Blood
Ever since the 12th century, the numerous brotherhoods and associations of the city of Bruges venerate and pay homage to the Holy-Blood.
Still today bishops and prelates, the clergy and the civil authorities in name of the people pay tribute to the relic.
The Noble Brotherhood of the Holy Blood was founded shortly after 1400. Its purpose is to safeguard the relic and to further its veneration. Its 31 members must be resident in Bruges and, as an old document puts it, be "honorable people".
The Provost can be recognized by his rich neckchain. On ceremonial occasions the Brothers wear a black silken tabard on which the pelican with her young is embroidered.
For about 750 years the population of Bruges and its neighbourhood faithfully and intensively venerates the relic of the Holy Blood.
The Noble Brotherhood of the Holy Blood, being aware of the importance attached by the inhabitants of Bruges to their relic, made in the course of centuries every effort to keep up the tradition.