Jean Bethune was the eldest son of baron Felix Bethune, a textile merchant and politician in Kortrijk. He was the brother of Félix and father of Jean-Baptiste Bethune-de-Villers. He married Emilie van Outryve d’Ydewalle in 1848. He was secretary to the West-Flemish governor and served as a member of the Provincial Council (1848-1858). Bethune lived in Bruges (1845-1859) where he served as the dean of the Noble Confraternity of the Holy Blood and was one of the founding members of the Archeological Society. In 1842 and 1843 he travelled to England where he was introduced to A.W. Pugin’s neo-gothic architecture. He had influential English friends such as James Weale, Thomas Harper King and John Sutton. In early 1859 he moved to Ghent where he established the Guilde de Saint-Thomas et de Saint-Luc (the Saint-Lucas academies). Jean Bethune was the central figure of the development of a catholic neo-gothic art movement in Belgium during the nineteenth century, specifically concerning architecture. Furthermore he was an innovator in the field of stained glass art (influenced by John Hardman), polychrome and the production of neo-gothic devotional prints. Prime examples of his realisations are the castle of Loppem, the abbey of Maredsous and the neo-gothic site of Vivenkapelle (Damme).