Standing next to city hall on Burg Square, the Basilica of the Holy Blood (Heilig-Bloedbasiliek) is a highlight of Bruges’ historical center, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The church dates back to the 12th century and houses one of the city’s most sacred relics: a vial believed to contain the blood of Jesus Christ.
Inside the Basilica of the Holy Blood, visitors can admire the Romanesque-style lower chapel, renowned for its exquisite stained glass windows, then explore the Gothic-style upper chapel, where the sacred relic is housed. A popular stop on sightseeing tours of Bruges, the church is within strolling distance of Belfort Tower, Market Square, and the Historium history experience, making it easy to visit all those attractions on a walking tour.
Things to Know Before You Go
- It’s free to visit the Basilica of the Holy Blood, but donations are welcome.
- The basilica is a working church and services are held twice a day.
- The church is closed daily between noon and 2pm.
- The basilica is wheelchair accessible.
How to Get There
The basilica stands at the southwestern corner of Burg Square, next to city hall and an easy walk from any of the central attractions. To get there by public transit, take any number of city buses, including buses 13 and 14, to the Markt stop and walk two minutes to the church.
When to Get There
The Basilica of the Holy Blood is open daily all year round, but it’s only possible to see the vial said to hold Jesus’ blood 11:30am–noon and 2pm–4pm. A popular time to visit is on Assumption Day (August 15), when the bishop of Bruges carries the relic through the streets as part of the Procession of the Holy Blood.
The Legend of the Basilica of the Holy Blood
Legend has it that after the crucifixion of Christ, Joseph of Arimathea wiped Jesus’ blood from his body and preserved the cloth. The cloth remained in Jerusalem until the Second Crusade, when the King of Jerusalem gave the relic to his brother-in-law, the Count of Flanders, Diederik van de Elzas. The count brought the cloth to Bruges in 1150 and built the Basilica of the Holy Blood to house the sacred relic. However, research has indicated that the relic actually came to Bruges about 100 years later from Constantinople (present-day Istanbul). Today, the relic is kept in a rock-crystal vial, which is itself inside a small glass cylinder capped with a golden crown at each end.