Thursday, May 19, 2011


  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 1310,  Bruges' city council decided to combine the festivities around the Holy Blood,  its procession (May 3rd) and the two-week ceremonies, with the annual fair (April 23rd until May 22nd). As a result the numbers of those assisting at the procession and the devotion around the Holy Blood grew.
   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.

   Floats with all kinds of symbols and representations gave it a triumphal aspect. During the French rule, the procession was again abolished (1798-1819), and the relic placed again in safety. In the 19th century the procession was composed of the seven parishes of the city with their numerous brotherhoods, congregations and schools. During the 20th century a variety of changes in the themes and the presentation were made.
   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.

   Throughout the history prophets appear who bring to our memory Gods' mission and the most fundamental rules of our life,  respect of life, justice, love for and trust in God.

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

   The same Jesus who is now with jubilation welcomed in Jerusalem will , a few days later be put to death. This shows that man is two-faced. Before his death, during the last meal with his disciples, Jesus delivered them his message of love which in turn they should deliver to the world. Jesus, however, will be betrayed and brought before Pilate. He is sentenced to death in order to appease the anger of the people.
   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

   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.

The Relic of The Precious Blood

   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.

   The relic of the Holy Blood is displayed each Friday, before and after the mass, to be venerated by the faithful.
   This age-old practice reaches a peak on Ascension Day : Bishops and prelates carry the shrine in the streets of the city on occasion of a solemn and colourful procession of more than 1800 actors.
   Each year 50.000 pilgrims are present at this original event.


  1. photo Tour BruggeMay 16, 2012 at 1:41 PM

    Thanks for this lovely summary of the blood procession, I'll be sure to share it up! :-)

  2. you are very welcome. Thanks for coming by!