And then there was a knock at the door – Memling in St. John’s

rondleiding memling Sint-Jan-Brugge - S-wan

A stranger knocks on the door

BONK! BONK! On a dark night in January 1477, there is a knock at the great gate of St. John’s Hospital. Brother Alphonsus stomps down the stairs, opens the door and immediately dives into his warm habit to ward off the piercing cold. It was snowing hard. In the howling wind, he hears a sigh and a dark figure falls down at his feet. “Help, get help!” cries Alphonsus, and immediately three brothers rush to lift the stranger and lay him down in the central room.

For three days and three nights they watched over him. He was given a bed and nutritious meals to gain strength. Slowly, the stranger began to speak again. He turned out to be a mercenary from Charles the Bold’s army who had been killed in the dramatic battle of Nancy. The soldier had come to Bruges robbed and badly injured. He said no name, and remained extremely secretive about his origins.

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The miracle is happening!

One day he borrowed from Brother Alphonsus some panels, some oil paints and a brush, to keep himself busy. He still felt too weak to leave, but was tired of the long wait. The brothers let him have his way. After a few weeks, he unveiled a magnificent work: His Saint Ursula shrine gave lustre and luster to one of the most important relics of the brothers and sisters of Saint John.

The mysterious soldier had emerged as an artist of genius: Hans Memling. He settled in the city and received commissions from several prominent residents. He eventually became one of the most important Bruges gatekeepers himself, and was buried in the rich cemetery of St. Gillis. A Memling room can still be found in St. John’s Hospital.

Beyond legend: the Memling collection at St. John’s Hospital

Collecting a museum collection depends less on happy coincidence than you might think. In the 19th and 20th centuries, the Sisters of St. John went to great lengths to preserve and display to the public their six beautiful Memlings, several of which they had ordered themselves. They received criticism as well as support from personalities such as James Weale (1832-1917), who did not think much of the Memling legend. Working with Memlings all the more. You can get to know this passionate and easily inflamed art historian on our walking tour.

TICKETS: From Bonifacius Bridge to BRUSK: Bridge’s Own Museum Mile

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322ingridd
322ingridd
2022-10-14
Visit in Brugge with the colleagues When calling for the price of a guided tour, I had Hélène on the phone. Rather than selling her tours she asked questions, understood my needs and shared her recommendations. We selected the chocolate tour. (mix of EU and US colleagues) Hélène was a wonderful guide. Very funny, interested in us , well prepared (linked the explanations to our Pharma business), no pressure, good pace, flexible! shared perspectives. Of all the quides we ever had ... she was the best! Don't hesitate and win time preparing your trip- assure you are in good hands ! Just relax and enjoy the stories of Hélène!
Jenna J
Jenna J
2022-06-25
Best personal tour with fantastic guide! I would highly recommend the 'best of Bruges' tour - we were a family of 5 and had a private tour, shown around by the most fantastic tour guide, Frank. He was superb! So knowledgeable and made the experience. Fantastic! You will not be disappointed.
Virginie C
Virginie C
2019-06-25
Guide compétent et sympathique J'ai réservé une visite quelques jours avant notre arrivée. Très bien conseillée par mon interlocutrice. Nous avons passé 2 heures de promenade très agréable avec un guide expérimenté et disponible. Top.