The first thing I did was head towards the O.L.Vrouwkerk which is situated in the middle of Bruges. Restoration works have been going on for years and at the moment the chapel where the Madonna by Michelangelo is normally located is inaccessible so the sculpture is not on display, just a cast. There was a lot of noise and dust so the entrance fee for the ‘museum’ was only 2 Euro instead of 6.
Apart from the things mentioned above there is large altarpiece by van Orley, a few medieval tombs and some not so great paintings. Unless you’ve never seen the choir of an old church or are very into Michelangelo and the B & C°, its probably not worth getting a ticket for the ‘museum’ (flog me if you think I deserve it). The outside is not very spectacular either.
This is the church interior, the tombs are at the back, behind the grate in the middle.
Mary’s tomb dates from just some years after her death, around 1500. The B’s tomb is much newer, from the middle of the 16th century. In 1979, when restoration works were going on (yeah, it’s a local tradition), Mary’s coffin and skeleton were discovered by accident. It turns out, the tombs were moved during the course of the centuries.
They are now back in their original positions. An autopsy of the skeleton revealed that it matches the injuries Mary sustained when she fell of her horse during a hunting trip. She was only 25. There was a small box with her, which contained the heart of Philip II, her son, who died of an illness or poisoning at 28. Charles was killed/committed virtual suicide at Nancy at 43. That’s three generations of tragic deaths at a (relatively) young age. With that in mind, the wide open, staring eyes of the effigies, are rather creepy.
According to Wikipedia the coffin with her skeleton is visible but I couldn’t see it though I crawled around on my knees (it was very calm that day and hardly any visitors came by). There was a bad reflection on the glass, so maybe that’s why. I saw some pictures of the skeleton somewhere but I think it was in a library book.
Here are some pictures of her tomb. Unfortunately, because I’m on the short side, it turned out to be impossible to take picture from a above. Eg. for the first one I stood on my toes with my arm high up and it’s still not high enough.
Also according to Wikipedia, Charles the Bold was originally buried in the St. Donaas church, which was demolished later on. But somewhere else I read that when they brought his remains to Bruges, they put the casket in Mary’s tomb as a temporary solution, until there was room for him, so I’ll have to look into that. In any case, he’s not home. First of all, the skeleton has disappeared, maybe during a revolution when the church was pillaged and thrashed. Secondly, the bones, or at least the skull, that were brought to Bruges, were probably not his. His heart is probably still somewhere in the soil of Nancy.
Engraving of the tomb in its previous location:
The graves below:
Now if this is a real Carravaggio I’ll eat my hat: