By: Georg Braun and Franz Hogenberg
Original Date: 1574 (Published) Cologne
Size of Original: 12.5 x 18 inches (31.1 x 45.7 cm)
This lovely reproduction of the original copper engraving is of the city of Bruges, the capital of West Flanders in northwest Belgium. Bruges is distinguished for its lovely old world atmosphere, including cobbled streets and medieval buildings, all accessible by boat on the city’s myriad canals. Its port Zeebrugge has long been an important center for fishing and trade.
This bird’s eye view from a northwesterly position shows the city surrounded by numerous windmills, all situated in the city proper. Nine bridges are depicted here, lending credence to the idea that the city was named for its great number of bridges. An intriguing handwritten date of 1610 appears in the right margin, perhaps the date when the map’s original owner visited Bruges?
At the map’s center is the market square with its cloth hall, a rectangular complex dating from the 13th century. Diagonally to the right behind it is the Gothic Onze-Lieve-Vrouwe church, burial place of Charles the Bold and Mary of Burgundy. In the 9th century; as a defense against the attacking Normans, Baldouin II the Bald built a fortress on the only bridge surviving from Roman times; it was this that probably gave the site its name. By the 12th century Bruges had risen to become a major center of European trade due to its direct access to the North Sea.
Bruges received its charter in 1128. Around the turn of the 13th century the city began holding trade fairs, at which wool imported from England was also sold. The first stock exchange was born at the inn run by the van der Buerse family of merchants, who subsequently gave their name to the concept of the "bourse" itself. In the 15th century Bruges saw a flowering of the arts and major artists such as the Van Eyck brothers, Hans Memling and Gerard David lived and worked here.
Translation of Braun’s Latin comment in the cartouche of the lower left quadrant: Brugae, generally known as Bruck, is the most beautiful and elegant of all German cities in Flanders. The splendour and magnificence of the public and private buildings in this city surpass all imagination and description. It possesses the best ground plan imaginable - one that is circular. It is surrounded by a double moat filled with water. It was formerly a flourishing city of commerce. Translation of cartouche top center: "Bruges, the pride of the cities of Flanders."
Translation of Latin commentary by Braun on the verso: "Bruges is said to have acquired its name from its great number of bridges. It has a marketplace adorned on all sides by magnificent houses, from which six wide streets lead away to the city gates. It has access to the sea, which lies three miles away; numerous streams and navigable channels run through the city. In later times its wealth diminished, partly because the water receded but partly, too, because the Hanseatic merchants left the city."