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supreme; far from the busy world, it is given to be the abode of pious women devoted to the service of God, and consists of a number of houses encircling a court, or green, planted with elms. Each Béguine inhabits a separate house with her servant; all are subject to a superior, and take vows of obedience and chastity; they are, however, free at the end of each year to go back to the world, if they so desire. Formerly this spot was surrounded by fertile vineyards, as the name still attached to that quarter, Place de la Vigne, testifies.
The most striking feature in Bruges is the belfry, and the melodious carillon of its bells. Of this Longfellow sings :
“In the market place of Bruges stands the belfry old and
brown; Thrice consumed and thrice rebuilded, still it watches o'er the
town. Still most musical and solemn, bringing back the olden times, With their strange unearthly changes, ring the melancholy
The belfry has stood from time immemorial; originally it was of stone, surmounted by a bell-tower of wood. It was the symbol and home of the city's liberties. In 1280 it was burnt down for the first time; all the charters and early records were reduced to ashes, only the stone walls of the tower part were left standing. When rebuilt, a spire was added with a figure of St. Michael; this was struck by lightning soon after, and when it was restored, the lion of Flanders took the place of the Archangel. From the balcony over the arched gateway public proclamations are read out. Two watchmen are there day and night to give notice of the outbreak of fire in any part of the city, by ringing the alarm bell.
It must not be thought that only trade and commerce flourished in Bruges in the Middle Ages. Architects and artists, painters and musicians, wood carvers and workers in brass, all found students and patrons among the proud nobles and wealthy burghers. The names of Van Ecyk, Hans Memling, Albert Durer, David, may bementioned among the great artists who, if not natives, were for a considerable time denizens of the city, and whose works may still be seen there. Until the thirteenth century the houses were constructed of wood; brick or stone being used for the first time in the erection of the ecclesiastical buildings of that period. The beautiful façade of Notre Dame, with its delicate tracery of windows and arches, elegant turrets and carved stone work; the grand old Hotel de Ville, from the balcony of which the Flemish rulers were proclaimed, the picturesque gabled fronts of the old houses, these yet remain to tell of past glories. Dante on his travels visited Bruges; it is one of the four Flemish cities mentioned in his Purgatorio. His description of the dykes tra Guzzante e Bruggia corresponds exactly with the topographical conditions of that vicinity. Caxton spent a great part of his thirty-six years residence on the continent at Bruges. Six of the earliest specimens of the newly-found art were printed there, and when he sailed from its port on his return to England, he carried with him a freight more valuable than gold, the first printing-press. Erasmus declared Bruges to be: “A most famous city, possessed of men of learning, and many who, if not learned, are quick-witted and sound in jugdment. I am tempted,” he says, “to live at Bruges, if I can find snug quarters there and agreeable company."
Bruges had reached the zenith of its prosperity; its rise had been slow, but its decline was swift. In the sixteenth century, under its Spanish rulers, it fell into great misery; pauperism prevailed, the once busy marts were comparatively deserted, the warehouses were empty, the quays without ships. Wars, civil and religious, contributed in great measure to this altered state of things; still more, the discovery of America and the opening of a new road to India. Commerce sought new paths and ports; moreover, Bruges lost access to the sea, through the decrease of water in the Zwijn. That estuary, never very deep, could no longer float vessels drawing much water, and ships of two hundred tons could no longer pene.' trate into the town. Calvinists overran the Low Countries; armed burghers at the closed gates saved the churches from pillage, for the people of Bruges remained staunch Catholics, although the authorities allowed Anabaptists and Calvinists to preach their new doctrines. For six years the party of Williain of Orange was in power, during which time William caused the Franciscan friars to be whipped and banished, the
Catholic leaders to be arrested, the bishop cast into prison, and the public exercise of the Catholic religion prohibited. The altar pieces were daubed with whitewash, the chapel of St. Basil robbed of its gold and silver vessels; the costly shrine adorned with precious stones shared a like fate, the relic itself being hidden in the house of a private individual until the storm of fanaticism passed over. When the submission of the city was. accepted, peace was restored by Alexander Farnese, the Prince of Parma. No estimate can be formed of what ecclesiastical art and literature lost by the havoc of the so-called Reformation.
On the Catholic revival in Europe three new houses of religious men were founded in Bruges; one of these being a Jesuit College. The year after the great plague of London (1665), the same scourge fell on Bruges. It is said that no fewer than 20,000 of its inhabitants perished. The clergy who visited the pestilence-stricken had to carry in their hand a red wand, called peste - stok, to warn passersby to avoid them.
A wave of persecution once more swept over Bruges at the time of the French Revolution. The church of Notre Dame was almost demolished; the pavement torn up, the stained glass broken, the beautiful flamboyant stalls which lined the choir carried away; every kind of havoc was done, only bare walls left standing. As we have said, the precious relic was concealed for a quarter of a century; until then it had been exposed for veneration every Friday. When tranquillity again prevailed, the venerable edifice was restored.
Through the causes we have mentioned, the population of Bruges was reduced, in the early part of the last century, to 43,005, Now, as the poet Wordsworth says:
“In Bruges' town is many a street
Whence busy life has fled;
The grass grown pavement tread."
But a halo of past glory still lingers round the ancient city, and despite its small, though increasing, population, it covers a considerable area. Its ramparts are five miles round, and only the leisurely visitor can know it as it deserves to be known. The meditative stroller will ever discover fresh beauties; new points of view from which the three striking and dissimilar spires of the belfry, the cathedral, and Notre Dime are seen at their best; silent canals along which the swans sail stately amid the water lilies; grassy quays and wonderful old houses with crow-stepped gables, inscribed with far-off dates in beaten iron. As he leans over some ancient bridge beneath the shade of convent or Godshuise, and listens to the carillon sounding high in air afar off, he may think that the supposed melancholy of “Bruges le morte” has been somewhat exaggerated. For Bruges has recently begun to feel a revival of commercial ambition. Not satisfied to sit "stately and sad” amid canals that mirror her thrice-famous spires, she is desirous to become once more a busy centre of trade. She is, in fact, once more cutting her way to the sea, access to which she lost four or five centuries ago. Besides, in these days of easy locomotion, pilgrims in increasing numbers flock to adore the sacred relic which it is her pride to possess. The processions take place with the same solemnity as of old, and are concluded with a most impressive ceremony. The blessing with the holy relic is given from a temporary altar erected on the Bourg to the assembled multitude, the drums of the massed bands sounding at the moment of benediction, and the soldiers standing with drawn swords.
ABBOT GASQUET'S NEW BOOK.
BY ETHELRED TAUNTON.
LOME few years ago in England, at a clerical meet
ing, a prominent ecclesiastic read a paper upon what he was pleased to call “The Catholic Presentment of History." I have always been at a
loss to know exactly what is meant by such a term. I know what history means; and I know, alas ! too well, how it has been prostituted by parties for the sake of gaining con. troversial victories. I have read so called Catholic histories; I have read also what are known as Protestant histories. History is truth; and truth needs no qualification. Of course a Catholic should understand certain matters and their real meaning in a way that a non-Catholic writer cannot be expected to know; so the former will be able to detect tendencies and trace effects back to their real causes. Beyond this, as a mere investigator of facts and criticiser of documents, there is nothing on the score of religion that gives the advantage to the Catholic over the non-Catholic.
I am speaking plainly. When one writer, timid and forgetting that human nature is the same everywhere and at all times, hides or glosses over what is unpleasant, he presents just as much a distorted picture of the truth as does the blatant and virulent opponent of the Church who gloats over the failings and shortcomings of Catholics, and holds them up as the sum of all history. The suppression of truth suggests falsehood; and bad effects are bound to ensue from such immorality. It is a fatal policy to set before the world the spiritual aspect of the Church as the sole one. She has as well a human side-a very human side—which must be taken into full consideration. The true idea of the Church, that is, of the Church as she really is, can only be gained by an adequate comprehension of both aspects. To hide one hinders our vision of the other. A day will come when the truth will out; perhaps it will be rudely forced upon us by an enemy instead of