In and around the Begijnhof
Kortrijk Travel Blog› entry 2 of 17 › view all entries
March 11th, 2009 – by: lamadude
Crammed in between Kortrijk's two oldest churches lies the Begijnhof, a feature of most Flemish cities, but the Kortrijk one is certainly one of the nicest. Unesco has listed a number of Flemish beguinages as world heritage, and if you have a look at their website they actually show a picture of the Kortrijk one as their illustration. Founded in 1283 by Jeanne, Countess of Flanders it was a safe haven for religious women (but not nuns) who had often lost their husbands during warfare. The Béguinage dedicated to St-Elisabeth and is walled off from the rest of the city. It was often destroyed during warfare and most of the houses that can be seen now date from the 1600's.
The Begijnhof in Kortrijk is a combination of both a street-beguinage and a square-beguinage, it is usually the most quiet place within the city center. You can often find people walking around here to relax, you might even call it a small touristic destination for the people of Kortrijk themselves.
Church of Our Lady
The area between the Begijnhof and the Leie River used to be the personal domain of the Count of Flanders, it was the site of a heavily fortified castle and was walled off, and surrounded by water. The only remaining part of this domain, appart from a small artillery tower is the massive 1199 Church of Our Lady. It is however still clear that this was a church for a Flemish count since we can find Flemish symbolism all over the Church. The most striking example of this is the gravenkappel or "count's chappel" which is a small chappel built onto the main church and inspired by the Saint Chapelle in Paris.
Another sign of the important place this church has in flemish history/symbolism is the ceiling of some parts of the church, which can be easily missed, but if you look carefully you will see dozens of golden spurs hanging from the ceiling. These were collected from the bodies of french soldiers of nobility who died in the battle of Kortrijk in 1302 between Flemish Militia and the French Royal Army, also known as the battle of the gulden spurs, and hung on the ceiling of the Church of our Lady. However the ones you can see now are replica's since the French took the originals back down in later warfare.
Another reason to visit this church is its collection of paintings, including the 1631 painting "the raising of the cross" by sir Anthony van Dyke.
With its 84m the tower of the St-Martins church dominates the "skyline" (well, it pretty much IS the skyline) of Kortrijk, and serves as an easy point of refference in order to get back to the center of the city. It was built between 1390 and 1466 after the previous St-Martins church had burnt down. A worryingly regular event actually, as the wooden top part of the tower has burnt down many times throughout the ages, but it was always rebuilt in its original state.
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