Churches abound in Brugge maybe twenty not counting the facades of once active parishes or cloister churches. Brugge was a very Catholic and devout town in the prosperous 14th and 15th centuries. Flanders was the realm of Vermeer, Memling Van Eyk, and Rubens and every church seems to have a famous painting or statue.
Onze Lieve Vrouw, Our Lady Church, is no exception, housing the only Michelangelo to be sent out of Italy in his own lifetime. The Madonna and Child was bought by a wealthy Brugge merchant who knew of Michelangelo from medieval Venetian trade. The Béguinage church would have come under the protection of Onze Lieve Vrouw, a mere 5-minute walk literally up the street from the Béguinage. Now Onze Lieve Vrouw is a ‘must see’ for the myriad tourists in Brugge. The Michelangelo Madonna now lives behind bullet proof glass, a sign of the times. My first visit here that was not so, but the world is a more dangerous place and religious relics not so respected as in former times. The OLV tower also presides over the skyline of Brugge along with the smaller tower of the Saint Salvador cathedral. I see both towers as I cross the courtyard going to and fro for daily offices. I see the illuminated tower of OLV at night as I pass for compline. I nod good night as I pass its silhouette in the night sky as I come down the hall to my convent room. Onze Lieve Vrouw watches over and protects me literally and figuratively.
Now to see the church itself you will have to make a Brugge visit, as the guide book is some 50 pages long covering all the tombs and coats of arms and famous paintings adorning the walls, apse and choir. Some of the most interesting are the walls of the tombs under the choir floor with Christian designs and paintings. These are now exposed for viewing since the restorations, cleaning and renovations. The upkeep on this 800-year-old religious and historical treasure is no doubt someone’s major concern.