The main city of West Flanders (Belgium) is Bruges, it is called the “capital of the Middle Ages” (the architecture of the late Middle Ages prevails in the city), and because of the old city cut by narrow canals – “Venice of the North”.
This city has one of the main attractions – this is the rarest work of art by the famous Italian sculpture by Michelangelo Buonarroti, located outside Italy – the Virgin and Child or Madonna of Bruges.
This sculpture is in the Church of Our Lady (Onze livé Vrauekerk / Notre Dame), built in the 9th century on the site of an old chapel, then rebuilt into a Romanesque building, but a fire in 1116 devastated most of the city and construction began on this site new church in the Gothic style. It was built exclusively from bricks in the 13th century. Its 122 meter high brick tower is the 2nd tallest in Belgium.
Over the centuries, the church was repeatedly completed and rebuilt, in 1711 a storm tore the cross and gutters from the main tower.
The church consists of 5 naves, 30 coats of arms of the knights are visible above the benches, and the 11th is the coat of arms of the Golden Fleece. The pulpit is made of carved oak from the 18th century, and the statues of the apostles and candlesticks are from the 17th century.
Despite the disappearance of many treasures from the church. It is a kind of museum – a magnificent collection of paintings, sculptures and numerous relics.
The most important thing in this collection is Michelangelo’s famous Madonna and Child.
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The marble statue of the Madonna and Child (height 128 cm) was made in 1501-1504. after the completion of work on the Vatican “Pieta” (1499).
Initially, it was intended for a church altar by order of Cardinal Piccolomini, but the sculpture did not quite correspond to church canons and, apparently, the cardinal refused it. Mouscron, a merchant from Bruges, decided to buy the sculpture, when he saw this marble statue, he was shocked (Madonna was alive – the sculpture seemed to breathe). Michelangelo did not want his work to leave Italy and charged a very high price for the sculpture, but the merchant paid and at the end of 1506 the sculpture was transported to Bruges to the Church of Notre Dame.
The second most important relics of the church are two sarcophagi with magnificent tombstones – the Burgundian rulers from the Valois family. One was made by Charles the Bold. And the second – by his daughter Maria of Burgundy, during whose reign Bruges reached the peak of its greatness. The sarcophagus of Charles the Bold was paid for by Philip III and was made in the Renaissance style. The sarcophagus is made of bronze with elements of stone carving. Charles the Bold died on the battlefield near Nancy in 1477 and his remains were transported to Bruges. The sarcophagus of Mary of Burgundy was commissioned by Philip the Fair in the Gothic style from bronze and gilded.
“Madonna and Child” from Bruges is one of the most beautiful and soulful Madonnas of Michelangelo.
The statue left Bruges 2 times, the first time – during the Revolutionary French War, the second time – during the Second World War. In 1944, the retreating Germans removed the statue under the mattresses in a Red Cross car. After a fanatic (Lasla Toth) attacked the Vatican “Pieta” in 1972, the Bruges authorities imprisoned the statue under bulletproof glass for security purposes.