The existence of Bruges is linked to sand. Thousands of years ago the North Sea coast did not have the same configuration as it does today.
In the past, the tide burst, destroying the fragile barrier of dunes that protected water invasion to the land.
Tribes that lived there had barely been Christianized and Cesar had not been bothered to civilize. In one of those natural dams (brigghia) a population of free peasants built a fortress to defend themselves against the incursions of the Normans.
In the eleventh century, a wall was built, and in the 12th century a storm created a natural channel to the North Sea.
The growing wool industry made of Bruges a prosperous city. The city belonged to the Hanseatic League, a federation of the Netherlands, Germany and Scandinavia.
In 1369 a crucial marriage took place in the city. The marriage of Countess Margaret de Male of Flanders and their of the Duchy of Burgundy Philippe le Hardi. The city knew, with the Dukes of Burgundy, its golden age, but also its decline. The Zwin natural channel was filled with sand.
The Duke of Burgundy, Philip the Good, established his court in Prinsenhof (now a reputed hotel). In 1429 his marriage to Isabella of Portugal is celebrated with great splendor and that’s when the Duke created the famous Order of the Golden Fleece.
In the last three centuries traders abandon Bruges, and its inhabitants live periods of authentic famine. Bruges waited patiently for a way to get access to the sea as a solution. King Leopold the II made that wish come true and the channel “Blankenberghe” was inaugurated in 1907.
It was nevertheless destroyed during the First World War.
We thank Bruges’ revival to its own past glory! In the second half of the 19th century, English writers and artists visited the mainland and fell in love with it.
Bruges represented the answer to their quest for medieval times. The British remained in the city buying and restoring houses, changing its architecture by recycling and reusing bricks. Bruges is reborn then.
In 1949, recognizing its legacy, the city of Bruges is chosen to join the elite of the European Union.