intoHistory, geschiedenis beleven in authentieke logies
When Mrs. Creytens, the owner of this luxurious and intimate Hotel Heritage, welcomes you into her domain, she is very likely to greet you with the words of Brillat-Savarin: ‘Inviting guests to your house is to undertake their well-being for as long as they are under your roof’.
With its personal service and as much comfort as you could wish for, Hotel Heritage will receive you as if you were its only guest. The owners of this ‘boutique hotel’ have recently been awarded four prestigious prizes, one for the ‘Best Hotel Room in Belgium’, that testify to their exceptional hospitality. The staff, at hand to attend to a guest’s smallest need, will show you to your room, but will also show you the surroundings, recommend trips to make and provide useful addresses. The hotel even offers a free guided tour (in English) and will suggest other discoveries to make in Bruges, a UNESCO heritage city.
After your excursions round this wonderful small-scale ‘green’ city, rich in cultural heritage, you will be welcomed back into this human-sized hotel’s gentle and soothing atmosphere.
This lovely mansion hotel, with its neo-Classic façade evoking the patrician residences of the 18th and 19th centuries, is situated in a quiet street just two steps away from the Grand-Place, and is perfectly placed to discover the city on foot or by bicycle.
Grand-Place in Bruges painted by A. Van den Steene in 1826. Note the similarity between the façades of the Provincial Palace and the Heritage Hotel.
The house, whose foundations date back to the 14th century, was (re)built in 1869 for the lawyer Basile de Keuwer by Louis Delacenserie, who was the architect for the Antwerp-Central railway station.
The Antwerp-Central railway station, built in 1899 by Louis Delacenserie. © Carolus uit nl
A precocious and talented student, the architect was awarded the coveted Prix de Rome at the age of 24. When he was 30, he was appointed city architect and was responsible for the restoration of most of the town’s architectural treasures, such as the Provincial Palace in the Grand-Place, which you will discover as you explore the city.
He built the neo-Gothic post office in the Grand-Place and many of the neo-Classic houses surrounding the theatre.
Other restorations, to mention just a few, are the Basilica of the Holy Blood (1870 et 1877), the old civil registry “Oude Griffie” (1877-84), the Gruuthuse Palace (1883–95), the city hall (1894–95 and 1903–04), Poortersloge (Burghers’ lodge) bell tower (1899–1903), Saint John’s Hospital (1905–09), and the main façade of the Church of Our Lady (1907–08).
Transformed from a warehouse to a luxurious residence for Louis de Gruuthuse in the 15th century, the palace was restored by the architect Louis Delacenserie. © Wolfgang Staudt
The hotel’s site is mentioned in the Bruges town archives at the beginning of the 14th century, under the name ‘Vaulte’ house, which in old Dutch means ‘vault – a basement or a room built above a vaulted cellar’. The foundations of the Bruges belfry, which can be seen from the hotel’s roof-top terrace, are contemporaneous with those of the hotel heritage.
Initially the residence of a town councillor who was a cloth merchant – the house is just two-hundred yards or so from the Cloth Hall, under the belfry. The ‘Vaulte’ house then passed into the hands of various merchants, one of whom was a certain Marco Cassetta who was part of the Italian community in Bruges. In the 17th century, the house became an inn, at which point the archives mention that it was then one of the most highly taxed properties in the city.
The splendid 14th-century capital in the vaulted cellar, which today is a decorative feature in the hotel’s fitness room.
In the 18th century, ‘Vaulte’ house was home to the family of a notary, who was very conscious of his social standing. At the end of the century, Liévin de la Villette then took up residence. A lawyer and town councillor, he led a busy social and cultural life and became governor of Mont-de-Piété of Bruges. He was a member of the Saint Sebastian and the Saint George guilds and played an active role in the Brotherhood of the Holy Blood.
The procession of the Holy Blood is classified as an intangible UNESCO heritage. ©holyblood.com
Every summer, on Ascension Day, the Noble Brotherhood of the Holy Blood, organizes the ‘Procession of the Holy Blood’ – a tradition that goes back eight centuries.
They parade through the streets of Bruges combining popular religious fervour with historical pageantry, evoking memories of Thierry of Alsace, Count of Flanders, who according to tradition, returned from the crusades in Jerusalem with the relic of the Holy Blood.
At the beginning of the 19th century, the house was inhabited by a merchant, and it would seem that the basement was occupied by an innkeeper. It was later occupied by a middle-class family and its servants.
A door handle in the Belle Epoque dining room. Pomegranates – symbols of fertility and abundance.
In 1922 a bank took over the site as its premises, and extended its offices as far as the neighbouring street.
When Isabelle and Johan Creytens bought the house twenty years ago, they preserved the old strongroom, but carried out extensive renovations to recapture the atmosphere of the Belle Epoque paying attention to the smallest details.
A few steps from the Hotel Heritage are two witnesses to the town’s medieval commercial and financial history. One is the house that belonged to the Van der Buerse family who settled there in the 13th century and welcomed tradesmen of every kind. The place rapidly became a financial information centre for different currencies, and towards the 14th century a money market, a precursor to the stock exchange, was established.
The Genoese House is one of many of the ‘nation’ houses to be found in Bruges. These were premises established for the accommodation of traders of the same origin. They were used as consulates, meeting places, or as warehouses. The houses of Hansa, Catalonia, Venice, Scotland and England, were among the many ‘nations’ to be found in Bruges. The Genoese settled here in 1397, before they were succeeded by the Florentine ‘nation’.
The Genoese House (left) and the Ter Buerse house (right) were the financial nerve centres of the 14th century. © Flamenc
Philip the Good’s advisor Pierre Bladelin, in front of the fortified town of Middleburg. Rogier van der Weyden, The Bladelin Triptych, 1460, Staatliche Museum Berlin.© wga.hu Pierre
The ‘Hof Bladelin’ was built in 1451 for Philip the Good’s advisor Pierre Bladelin, the treasurer of the Order of the Golden Fleece. His many functions at the court of the Dukes of Burgundy allowed him to exercise considerable political and cultural influence.
In 1460, Pierre Bladelin was personally responsible for the construction of the fortified town of Middleburg and commissioned the artist Rogier van der Weyden to paint a triptych in which he is depicted in front of the completed town.
In 1472, the Medicis took possession of the house and set up their Bruges bank. The florentine Thomas Portinari, immortalized by the artist Hugo van der Goes, was the manager. Today, a museum and a convent are housed in this haven of peace in the centre of Bruges.
The neo-Classic theatre seen from the attractive suites in the Hotel Heritage, is a feature that was central to the quarter’s renewal between 1869 and 1870, to which Louis Delacenserie actively contributed. Restored in 2001, it is one of the best preserved theatres in Europe.
The foyer in the Bruges theatre is a contemporary of the dining room in the Hotel Heritage. © Meetinginbruges.be
With the Hotel Heritage as a starting point, one can explore almost the whole town on foot. Horse-drawn carriages or boats are on call to take you the length of small streets and canals lined with ancient residences.
The ‘Venice of the North’ more than lives up to the name. However, it is a more intimate version and bathed in the greenery of the surrounding countryside that allows for further excursions into Jacques Brel’s Plat Pays (flat country).
Beyond the windmills and the fortified ramparts and doors of Bruges, other wonderful discoveries, such as the villages of Damme, Oostkerke, Lissewege and the neo-Gothic Loppem Castle, await you.
To fully appreciate the atmosphere in Bruges, do not hesitate to enhance your stay by reading a few books. A few suggestions:
Merci Isabelle, pour votre gentillesse, et pour le sens de l’accueil exceptionnel de votre personnel efficace et discret. Ecoute et confort ne sont pas vains mots ici, pour le bonheur des voyageurs les plus exigeants. J’apprécie particulièrement l’ambiance chaude et feutrée de la salle à manger où les gourmets se régalent de la cuisine inventive et raffinée de votre restaurant «Le Mystique».
Quel bonheur d’avoir pu découvrir avec vous-même cette maison patiemment restaurée et rénovée de la cave au toit. Du Moyen Age à la Belle Epoque en quelques marches ! Après un promenade en ville, il est bon de se faire dorloter à l’Hôtel Heritage.
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Hotel Heritage ****
Isabelle and Johan Creytens
Niklaas Desparsstraat 11
Tel +32 50 44 44 44
Fax +32 50 44 44 40
Heritage Hotel’s own website
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