“My soul doth magnify the Lord, and my spirit has rejoiced in God my Savior.” So begins the ancient song of Mary, prayed over the centuries traditionally at the Vespers service. Bruges is replete with statues of Mary over doors, in niches, and on corners of streets. Look up and you will be continually surprised by an ever different statue of the Mother and Child. The perspectives vary from Mary nursing baby Jesus, to the medieval stylized Mary with the child Jesus in solemn benediction of the world on her knee. Hard to imagine a town so completely given to the laud of Mary; she is exulted at every turn. Mary was the traditional prayer intercessor to her Son and Bruges during the 15th and 16th centuries made ample use of her.
So it seems not unusual that the Michelangelo Madonna and Child is in Bruges; the only Michelangelo to leave Italy during his lifetime. The Madonna was intended for the Cathedral in Siena but a prosperous trading merchant from Bruges bought it and shipped it to Damme, then on the North sea (now 10 minutes inland by canal) and then overland to Onze Lieve Vrouw (Our Lady Church). Of all the tourist attractions in Bruges, this is probably the most visited. The film “The Monuments Men” tells the WW II story of this statue, looted by the Nazis, and then discovered in a mine and returned to Onze Lieve Vrouw. It is worth the watch!