Bruges   Blason du Ville de Bruxelles 
St Michael killing the dragon   Brugge, Gent / Gand, Antwerpen / Anvers & Bruxelles / Brussel, Belgique

Beginning in 57 BC, Julius Cæsar extended the power of Imperial Rome into what is now Belgium. The people he encountered were the celtic tribes generally known as the Belgæ, inhabiting this portion of Gaul. The Romans dubbed the new province Gallia Belgica. In the fourth century AD, with Rome in steep decline, defacto control of Gaul was ceded to the Franks, a Germanic tribe. As the Franks flourished, the group moved from the role of a mercenary to that of a ruler. Thus by 431, they had established an independent dynasty. More history of Belgium HERE. The first fortifications at Brugge were built after Julius Caesar's conquest of the Menapii Belgic tribe in the first century BC, to protect the coastal area against pirates. The Franks administered it as part of the Pagus Flandrensis.

Oldest BridgeBrugge (Bruges) is the capital and largest city of the province of West Flanders in the Flemish-speaking region of Belgium, sometimes referred to as the Venice of the North. The fortunes of Bruges rose and fell with the strength of the Zwin, the river on which the city is built. The Viking incursions of the ninth century prompted Baldwin I, Count of Flanders, to reinforce the Roman fortifications. Overseas trade returned with English and Scandinavian partners. Coins appeared in the 9th century bearing the name Bryggia. This name may stem from the Old Norse Bryggja, meaning port, the same origin as Norway’s Bryggen.

The outset of Bruges' pre-eminence as commercial and cultural center, begins with the great Dunkerque Floods of the twelfth century, that fully opened the River Zwin to "deep-water sea trade. Bruges got its city charter on July 27, 1128 and built itself new walls and canals. In the 13th Century, English contacts brought Normandy grain and Gascon wines. Hanseatic ships filled the harbor, which had to be expanded, then came the Mediterranean trade. But silt and time change all. During the 1650s the city was the base for the court of Charles II of England and his court in exile. The maritime infrastructure was modernized, and new connections with the sea were built, but without much success. Bruges gradually disappeared from the picture picture. In the last half of the 19th century Bruges became one of the world's first tourist destinations attracting wealthy British and French tourists. Only in the second half of the twentieth century has the city started to reclaim some of its past importance as a port of entry / departure (port of Zeebrugge).

The Basilica of the Holy Blood (Heilig-Bloedbasiliek) still has the relic of the Holy Blood, which was brought to the city during the First Crusade. It is paraded every year through the streets of the city in a mile-long religious procession, many participants dressed as medieval knights or crusaders. Don't miss this picture. Built in the 12th century, with a spiked spire 360 feet high, so you can't miss it, and Michelangelo's white Carrara marble masterpiece, the Madonna and Child, is prominently displayed at the Church of Our Lady (Onze Lieve Vrouwekerk). The Cathedral of the Holy Savior (Sint-Salvatorskathedraal) is the oldest parish church in Bruges (12th-15th century). It also contains an extensive collection of Flemish art (16th-18th century) and tapestries. This Gothic church, built in the late 1100, has several turrets and spires. In the 1800's a Romanesque-style tower was added. Bruges is also famous for its thirteenth-century belfry, housing a municipal carillon comprising 47 bells. Brugge has canals, too. The marketpace at Christmas is almost entirely dedicated to food and drink. Bier and french fries and waffel cakes galore. Pictures everywhere here. Pictures Here

Metro-Tramway LinkGent (Gand) is the capital and biggest city of the East Flanders province. Most historians believe that the older name for Ghent, Ganda is derived from the same Celtic word meanning confluence. There are no written records of the Roman period but archæological research confirms that the region of Ghent remained inhabited, changing hands when the Franks arrived. Around 650 Saint Amand founded two abbeys in Ghent: the Saint Peter Abbey and the St. Bavo's Abbey . The city grew from several nuclei, the abbeys and a commercial center. Around 800 Louis the Pious, son of Charlemagne, appointed Einhard, the biographer of Charlemagne, as abbot of both abbeys. Vikings plundered the town in 851 and 879. The city recovered and flourished from the 11th century on. Indeed, in the 12th century Ghent may have been the most populated city in Europe after Paris. Today, the spires of the city belfry, of the Saint Bavo Cathedral and Saint Nicholas' Church are some examples of the modern skyline which dates from that period.

The late 16th and the 17th century brought devastation from the religious wars of that epoch. In November 8, 1575, French Catholics and Huguenots had signed yet another treaty, creating lasting peace. A year later, all the provinces of the land of Holland would unite in the Pacification of Ghent in the face of Spanish occupation. The 17 provinces of the Netherlands had formed a federation to maintain peace. At one time Ghent was a Calvinistic republic, but eventually the Spanish army reinstated Catholicism. These wars ended the role of Ghent as a center of international importance. Ghent was also the site of the signing of the Treaty of Ghent which formally ended the War of 1812 between Britain and the United States of America. After the battle of Waterloo Ghent became a part of the United Kingdom of the Netherlands for 15 years and gained a port (which it lost when Belgium revolted and secured its freedom).

Much less frequented by tourists than Antwerp or Bruges, Gent remains a small, quiet and unassuming university town. It has all the key attractions of other popular Belgian cities; cobbled streets, canals and stunning architecture and and medieval towers. Its centre is the largest carfree area in Belgium and contributes to a more relaxed pace. St Michielsbrug, which spans the Leie River, provides beautiful views of the city’s trademark skyline of ornate medieval rooftops and three majestic towers (St Niklaas, the Belfort and St Baaf’s). Atlanta, Georgia in the USA is Ghent's twin city, but you'll find no ancient structures or traffic free walks. View the Adoration of the Mystic Lamb, an enormous, multi-panelled altarpiece painting by the Van Eyck brothers (15th century), which have survived more recent turbulence, at the Cathedral.

The medieval guild houses, of which Gent has several, Line the Graslei, an olde-city quayside. Vrijdagmarkt, a large medieval square, hosts a market several days a week. The Bijlokemuseum occupies a red-brick abbey (13th century) that was closed down as a religious building in during the French occupation. It today contains a large collection of various types of sculpture, furniture and decorative art. It is said that the mustard of Ghent at Tierenteyn has lured gourmets since 1790.

Some 20km west of Ghent's ring-road (if the road was straight and it is not), the small town of Buggenhout. Associated with it (2km to the NW) you will find at the crossroad point (Mandekensstraat 181, 9255 Buggenhout) and Brouwerij De Landtsheer NV, a factory that makes some amazing liquid refreshment. Actually it's much closer to Bloksmolen Oude Molen, never-the-less, the place makes a number of different varieties, including two expensive Champagne-style drinks, a Blonde and a Brut Noir. Matching these two are "regular " beers with different alcohol content. For your interest Malheur roughly translates to the English "misfortune" as associated with the word disaster. In the same town is another brewery called Brouwerij Bosteels. see also The credit Malheur production goes to Manu De Landtsheer (Brouwerij De Landtsheer NV), who restarted (1991) his own brewery in just the last few years near the Belgian town of Buggenhout, to the north of Brussels on the way to Antwerp between Aalst and Mechelen, more brewing towns. He started his brewery there; but, the family has had a brewery on the same premises since the late-1600's (or early 1700's), closed only between the last two great European wars.

The basic Malheur 10 (a beautiful blond with carbonation bubbles racing to the massive white topping -- the fluid is gold colored and hazy) is brewed with three or four different pilsner malts, mainly coming from France, and one more specialized malt from Belgium. It has Saaz hops from the Czech Republic, and Styrian Goldings from Slovenia. The yeast originally came from the Affligem brewery, which is nearby. If you like Duvel (which means devel), you may like this one. It is a wee-bit stronger. Duvel is only eight and half percent, the basic brew is ten.

The Quadrupel "12" is a dark, almost chocolate beer (rouge-brun profonde), nothing like Duvel. Malheur Cuvée Royale is a Bière de Champagne / Bière Brut (9%), and is more like an apertif (also yellow in color that has been compared to straw). It is packaged foil-wrapped in a champagne bottle. Its cost is about 3 times that of the basic 10 or the dark 12. This 12% (alcohol) dark bier that resounds with chocolate taste, becomes the base brew from which the dark Brut Noir is crafted, utilizing parts of the méthode Champenoise and of course some secret additional spices.

Antwerpen (Anvers) in Belgium is the capital of the Antwerp province in Flanders, one of Belgium's three regions. The most prevailing theory behind the city's name is that it originated in the Gallo-Roman period and comes from the Latin antverpia. Antverpia is composed of ante (against) verpia (deposition, sedimentation), indicating a settlement on land that formed by deposition in the inside curve of a river. Note that the river Scheldt, before its transition period between 600 to 750AD, followed a different course. The area shows Gallo-Roman occupation, as well as that from the Franks. The Merovingian Antwerp, once fortified, was evangelized by Saint Amand in the seventh century. At the end of the tenth century, the Scheldt became the boundary of the Holy Roman Empire. Antwerp became a margraviate, a border province facing the County of Flanders.

After the closing of the flow in the Zwin and the consequent decline of Bruges, the City of Antwerp, then part of the Duchy of Brabant, became of importance. At the end of the 15th century the foreign trading houses were transferred from Bruges to Antwerp. Then Antwerpen became the economic center of the Western World -- for a while. Antwerp's Golden Age was tightly linked to the European "Age of Exploration." Over the first half of the 16th century, Antwerp grew to become the second largest European city north of the Alps by 1560. Many foreign merchants were resident in the city. Guicciardini, the Venetian envoy, stated that hundreds of ships would pass in a day, and 2000 carts entered the city each week. Portuguese ships laden with pepper and cinnamon would unload their cargo.

Antwerp experienced three booms during its golden age, the first based on the pepper market, a second launched by American silver coming from Seville (ending with the bankruptcy of Spain in 1557), and a third boom, after the stabilising Treaty of Cateau-Cambresis, in 1559, based on the textiles industry. The boom-and-bust cycles and inflationary cost-of-living squeezed less-skilled workers in this international city. On November 4, 1576, Spanish soldiers plundered the city, during the long war that resulted from the Reformation. During the Spanish Fury, 6000 citizens were massacred, 800 houses were burnt and much economic loss incurred. Antwerp became the capital of the Dutch revolt. In 1585, Alessandro Farnese, Duke of Parma and Piacenza, captured it after a long siege and sent its Protestant citizens into exile. Antwerp's banking was controlled for a generation by Genoa and Amsterdam became the new trading capital. The recognition of the independence of the United Provinces by the Treaty of Münster in 1648 stipulated that the Scheldt should be closed to navigation, which destroyed Antwerp's trading activities. This impediment remained in force until 1863, although the provisions were relaxed during French rule from 1795 to 1814, and also during the time Belgium formed part of the Kingdom of the United Netherlands (1815 to 1830). But the damage was done, with little recovery -- then came two World Wars. The city was hit by more V-2s than any other target during the entire war, but the attack did not succeed in destroying the port since many of the missiles fell upon other parts of the city. As a result, the city itself was severely damaged and rebuilt after the war in a modern style.

The Onze-Lieve-Vrouwekathedraal (Cathedral of our Lady) at the Groenplaats is the highest cathedral in the Low Countries and is home to four triptychs by Baroque painter Rubens (The Descent from the Cross, The Elevation of the Cross, The Resurrection of Christ and The Assumption). It remains the tallest building in the city. The church, named for St James (De Sint-Jacobskerk), is decorated more ornately than the cathedral. It contains the tomb of Rubens. The church of St Paul (De Sint-Pauluskerk), has a beautiful baroque interior. The original St. George Church (Sint-Joriskerk (parochiekerk)) was demolished during the French Revolution. Today the church is a neo-gothic building. Its old confessional ended up in the Church of Vilvoorde. The interior is 19th century and consists mainly of carvings, but the church hosts the ebony statue of Our Lady of the Castle which comes from the former citadel of Antwerp. The St. Anthony Parish Church (Sint-Antoniuskerk) is a 19th century Gothic Revival structure, built on the foundations of the former chapel of the Capuchins Monastery. It contains some ancient works of the former church. The Mountain of Calvary of the Capuchins in the old convent (courtyard) was preserved. The Capuchins moved to Ossenmarkt. The new building on the Ossenmarkt has a painting of St. Francis that hangs above the door. There are a number of cloisters, too.

Bruxelles (Brussels) has grown from a 10th-century fortress town founded by Charlemagne's grandson into a metropolis is the de facto capital city of the European Union (EU). Although historically Dutch-speaking, Brussels has become increasingly francophone. Today most inhabitants are native French-speakers, although both languages have official status. The name Brussels derives from the Old Dutch Bruocsella, which means marsh (bruoc) and home (sella) or “home in the marsh.”

The official founding of Brussels is usually situated around 979, because Duke Charles transferred the relics of Saint Gudula from Moorsel to the Saint Gaugericus chapel in Brussels, located on what would be called Saint Gaugericus Island. The Holy Roman Emperor Otto II gave the duchy of Lower Lotharingia to Charles, the banished son of King Louis IV of France in 977, who would construct the first permanent fortification in the city, doing so on that same island. Because of its location on the shores of the Senne on an important trade route between Bruges and Ghent, and Cologne, Brussels grew quickly and its swamps drained. Its rulers, the Counts of Leuven, became the Dukes of Brabant at about this time (1183/1184). In the 11th century, the city got its first walls. It continued to prosper.

In the 15th Century, Brabant had lost its independence, but Brussels became a princely capital of the prosperous Low Countries, and flourished even more. For instance, Charles V, heir of the Low Countries (from 1506 although he was only 6 years old) governed by his aunt Margaret of Austria until 1515; then was crowned King of Spain in the Cathedral of Saint Gudule in Brussels (1516). Upon the death of his grandfather, Maximilian I, Holy Roman Emperor in 1519, Charles V became the new archduke of the Habsburg Empire and thus the Holy Roman Emperor of the Empire. But all good times come to a vain-glorious end.

In 1695, French troops, sent by King Louis XIV, bombarded Brussels with artillery. Together with the resulting fire, it was most destructive event in the entire history of Brussels. The Grand Place was destroyed, along with 4000 buildings, a third of those in the city. In 1830, the Belgian revolution took place in Brussels after a performance of Auber's opera La Muette de Portici at De Munt or La Monnaie theatre. On 21 July 1831, Leopold I, the first King of the Belgians, ascended the throne. In World War II Brussels was bombed by the German Luftwaffe from 10 May 1940 on until the country's surrender; most of the war damage to the city however took place in 1944–1945.

The heart of Brussels is the Grand' Place (Grote Markt). This historic market square with its impressive Gothic beauty of the Town Hall (Stadhuis - Hôtel de Ville), is thought by many to be one of the most beautiful town squares in Europe. The Grand Place started off as a market for trading goods. Initially wooden houses were scattered around the market, but from the 14th century stone mansions were built. From 1402 until 1455 the Town Hall was first constructed. Atop the spire on its square tower, stands a 5-meter-high gilt metal statue of the Archangel Michael, the patron saint of Brussels, slaying a dragon (devil). The 96 meter high tower mimics Brabantine Gothic style. French Bombardment in 1695 (as mentioned above), largely destroyed the original building, although a gutted tower remained.

The Maritime District (area of docks) [Le Quartier des Quais ou Quartier Maritime] contains an ornate St. Jean-Baptiste of the Béguinage order. This district is the old port of Brussels. Vessels entered from the Scheldt. Each platform was reserved for a type of goods. City fathers filled in the old port in the nineteenth century with the opening of the new port of Brussels. Then the channels were replaced by wide boulevards that memorialize the former functions: Quai aux Briques, wood for burning, Hay, Coal, lime, to name but a few. Some refer to the business district: Rue du Magasin, Street of the Traders, Market for Swine, the quai du Commerce. Along the docks, many bourgeois houses (Hôtels Particulars) that belonged to wealthy merchants have entryways entrances leading to each one's warehouse. Boulevard d'Ypres still houses wholesalers, suppliers today of food by trucks, having replaced the boats replete with spices and exotic treats. The area also includes the Beguinage Brussels (an area where the order lived in small houses centered on the chapel) with the Church of St. John the Baptist and a remarkable Grand Hospice Pachéco. There one may find sur les quais, Potale, (the place to store grain distillery refuse, used to fatten swine) Saint Roch, invoqué contre la peste -- they knew about swine flu even then !!!

Brussels is known for its fried cakes, fine chocolate, potato fries and numerous types of beers. Its coffee houses go by the name the Salons de Thé. The Brussels sprout was first cultivated in Brussels, as one might expect, along with Brussels waffles (gaufres) and mussels (usually as moules frites, served with the city's famous french fries). Lambic-style beer is only brewed in and around Brussels; cherry-flavored beer (Kriek) is popular everywhere. Atlanta, Georgia in the USA is Ville de Bruxelles' twin city -- home of the Waffle House. The city was also a Tour de France 2010 host site.

But, one really can't talk about the city without touching upon another favourite drink, abbaye bier. As someone said, "For me, [Afflingem] is a gateway Belgian [beer]. How did you get hooked on these blue cheeses of beer anyway {referring to strong Belgian brew} ? Gotta start somewhere … This is something to give the newbie who has moved past the IPAs and porters and needs to move into the Belgians, but need not be put off by the vinegar [tasting]-clones." Afflingem (the town) is about 10km to the east-northwest of Brussels' ring road. The 76 year-old Brouwerij (brewery) of the Abdij (abbaye) Afflingem sits in the Flemish village of Opwijk (NE of the Afflingem), the place where an amber drink called Op-Ale first arose, winning an award in Luxembourg in the memorable year of 1951. Spéciale Op-Ale still is available today on the local market, along with the regular Blonde, Dubbel and Triple (World Beer Cup 1996, 2004, 2008) liquid refreshments, and some other specialities, such as Paters Vat (another blonde ale). The concern continues also the traditional beer of Postel Abbey, that sits on the border with Holland. The Benedictine Abbey in the town of Afflingem has long stood (1074) on the border between Flemish Brabant and East Flanders. Saint Bernard of Clairvaux visited Affligem in 1146, where he is said to have had a vision of the Blessed Virgin, in memory of which he gave the abbey his staff and chalice, which are still preserved in the abbey today. At various times in various conflicts the grounds were contested and the monks had to flee; and, it was re-established (1869-70) after the French Revolution caused it to close.

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Soissons -- Compiègne -- Beauvais -- Senlis -- Lens, Arras & Cambrai -- Amiens, Albert and Abbeville -- Saint-Quentin and Laon -- Boulogne-sur-Mer, Calais, Bourbourg & Dunkerque -- Mainz / Mayence -- Trier / Trèves -- Aachen / Aix-la-Chapelle -- Reims -- Lille & Walloon Belgique

Celtic/Frank History -- Germaniæ Historicæ -- Anglo Saxons

Reformation from a French-Protestant point of view

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