The very beautiful chapel of Bruges

Last year while on business in Brussels on a weekend I visited the historical city of Bruges. Bruges is probably the biggest quite well-preserved and carefully revived medieval city in Europe. The local authorities put much attention so that new constructions or upgrades fit well into the historical city style (compare photo gallery >>>). I went there without any plan just to take a walk, sightsee and make photos. (A train from Brussels reaches Bruges within one hour.)

To understand the city heritage I took a one hour guided tour on a small touristic bus that starts and ends its tour at the main square. I was not planning to see any interiors. But one place drew my attention as I was listening to the audio. It was described as the most beautiful church in the city with relics of value inside. As it is located five minutes of walk from the main square I came back there after descending the bus. The church turned to be rather a big chapel with a status of minor basilica.

Yes indeed, as I entered my only reaction was ‘Wow!’ Of beautiful interiors I saw last year (including the most opulent rooms in the royal palace of Madrid) this one turned to be on a definite must-see list.

The Neo-Gothic interior of the Basilica of the Holy Blood in Bruges

The Basilica of the Holy Blood in Bruges (Belgium) is famous for the venerated relic of the Holy Blood. But from the sightseeing point of view it is a place of true architectural and artistic value. It was originally built in XII century as the chapel of the residence of the Count of Flanders. The status of a minor basilica was awarded 1923. The Basilica consists in fact of two chapels (the lower and the upper one) built within the residence of the Count of Flanders.

It is easy indeed not to see it from outside as the entrance facade does not look like it leads to a church. In fact it is a small building in the top right corner of the Burg square. The building has a very decorative facade but … many buildings in Bruges look like that.

The both chapels were originally built in Romanesque style. The upper chapel was however transformed into the Gothic style at the end of the 15th century and once again on the Gothic revival architectural wave in XIX together with other major revival works in the whole historical city of Bruges.

A close up onto the main entrance facade and the front view of the interior

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Musei Vaticani

Musei Vaticani belongs to one of those museums where one is simply overwhelmed with all the artifacts, sculptures and paintings gathered in a relatively small space. It would be difficult to recall all of them, not to mention describing or even make photos of all of them. It would be simply too much.

In Musei Vaticani there a couple of routes you can take. Quite often the sightseeing begins with the antique section. Inside there are many sculptures, busts, reliefs, mosaics and other ancient artifacts. There are almost no paintings. That one will be however more than balanced in other parts of the museum. Walls and ceilings are of antique look. In this section of the Vaticani museum one should simply concentrate on the historical value of that, what one sees. The following sections are more about the art, paintings or frescoes as well as craftsmanship. There are a number of chambers that look like an art gallery, so the focus is indeed on the paintings on display. But there are chambers where one has to look around and look up. The most impressive frescoes are probably in the Raphael’s Rooms – a series of chambers painted by Raphael. But there are also at least two passages alongside long but long corridors with frescoes painted on ceilings. These are a couple of hundreds meters long each: one is a corridor with tapestry maps and the other one a series of consecutive corridors in the Bibliotheca Vaticana (>>>).

Visiting this museum one has to be prepared to find oneself in a crowd – there are daily hundreds of tourists, who want to visit this place. As far as the entrance is concerned: there is the official queue, in which one has to wait a longer time (around an hour or so). One can also use a quicker queue that in practice means use a service of a person (or a guide), who has a reservation. But one has to pay more for the ticket. The latter seems to be an under the desk procedure, but it works.


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Raphael’s Rooms

Some time ago during a visit in Musei Vaticani (>>>) that is totally overwhelming as far as the number of artifacts, artworks as well as handicraft all around are concerned in the second hour of a slow walk in the crowd I was simply too tired to admire that what we saw. There were moments I made photos just to be able to follow the route quietly later at home. My neck was tense because of the constant looking up onto the frescoes and other ceiling decorations. To be frank I did not prepare earlier for this visit, so I had no idea what was still ahead of us. For a couple of minutes we entered a great hall with frescoes all around. I did not want to speculate on its size, but this was altogether hundreds of meters. Then there was another room, and another. You could have only looked around, stopping for a while and catching the momentum.

We entered the so-called Raphael’s Rooms, a series of chambers decorated by the Italian Renaissance master Raphael, or his pupils. In fact the sightseeing route begins in the reverse order. Its starts in the Room of Constantine, a great hall designed for reception and official ceremony purposes. The frescoes are not by Raphael himself. Raphael died before he was able to finish them. The work was finished by artists, who worked in his workshop, upon the original Raphael’s design. The room is devoted to the Roman emperor Constantine, who was the first Christian Emperor of the ancient Rome.


Only a small fraction of a wall fresco in the Room of Constantine, showing the Battle of Constantine against Maxentius, painted by the Raphael’s pupil Julio Romano.


Later on, we visited a series of smaller chambers that had been designed to serve as pope’s private chambers that are told to be painted by Raphael himself. This can be however not fully true, as Raphael is told to have maintained one of the biggest workshops in Rome. Translated into English it means that he employed many talented people who made auxiliary work for him.

Raphael or Raffaello Sanzio da Urbino (1483-1520), was one of the greatest artists of the Italian Renaissance (alongside Michelangelo and Leonardo da Vinci). He is one of those artists who died young but left huge art heritage.  Raphael’s Rooms are told to be one of his greatest achievements. On the picture left, you can see the Raphael’s self-portrait on display in the Louvre collection in Paris.  But artists sometimes painted their self portraits inside works for which they have been commissioned. One of them (supposedly) is in the Raphael’s Rooms on the wall with a fresco depicting the School of Athens (>>>). In the middle of it there are two masterminds of the ancient times: Plato (to the left) an his pupil Aristotle (to the right). The head of Plato is a portrait of Leonardo da Vinci, and that of Aristotle is indeed a Raphael’s self-portrait.


The Raphael’s Rooms are decorated with frescoes all around. You can admire paintings on each wall and on all ceilings. Because of the crowds I made only a few photos directing my camera up from above people’s heads. However, on the Musei Vaticani web page, we can admire the empty Raphael’s rooms on pictures and in form of the virtual tour (>>>).

Below some other photo impressions.









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