Collections of Bruges City Archives

Gezelle was involved in the establishment of two Bruges statues, that of Georges Rodenbach and the one for Jan Breydel and Pieter De Coninck. One statue was erected, the other one was not. Documents from the Bruges City Archives offer an interesting insight.


Shield and Friend

The Matins of Bruges

After years of careful preparation the statue of Jan Breydel and Pieter De Coninck was inaugurated on the Market Square in Bruges on July 11th, 1887. Breydel, a butcher and De Coninck, a weaver, were the leaders of the Bruges uprising against the French in 1302, leading to the Battle of the Golden Spurs at Courtrai on the 11th of July 1302. Both civilians were celebrated as patriotic heroes. Together with the battle of 1302 they stand as a symbol for Flemish identity and emancipation in Belgium. In order to glorify the two heroes, Gezelle wrote the song De Brugsche Metten (the Matins of Bruges) in the same year. The poem of 107 verses has an interesting history that can be traced throughout the letters in the archives of the College of Saint-Leo, which are kept in the City Archives of Bruges. The poem was written at the request of Hendrik Rommel, director of the College of Saint-Leo and was to be sung at the December prize-giving ceremony. Gezelle therefore dedicated the poem to Rommel. It first appeared in the magazine Rond den Heerd (By the Fireside) and was included in the collection of poems Tijdkrans (Wreath of Time).

GGA8962bis Fgroot Edgar Tinel

Edgar Tinel

Initially, the Bruges composer Karel Mestdagh would create the music. When he declined, Edgar Tinel agreed to make the composition. Tinel considered the poem too large and epic for a college performance so he asked Gezelle to leave out the historical scenes. In the end Gezelle only kept 40 verses under the title Vridag (Fryday).

AL Stadsarchief archief St Lodewijks55016 07 1887r

The Letters

The perfectionist Tinel wanted to arrange the preparation of the performance down to the smallest detail. For example, the piece had to be performed on a special grand piano, which they had to bring over from Brussels because non was available in Bruges. This correspondence from the City Archives has now been fully described and digitized in the Gezelle database.

No statue for Rodenbach !

Dead City

Georges Rodenbach was very successful with his iconic novel Bruges la morte (The Dead Bruges) (1892). The inhabitants of Bruges were not so keen on the gloomy image of Bruges as a dead city. Shortly after Rodenbach's death, his friends wanted to erect a memorial near the Beguinage. There was protest, mostly from Flemish-Catholics. In the Gazette of Bruges of January 1st, 1899, the inhabitants of Bruges were called on to protest. A member of the Flemish Brotherhood even suggested a suitable location for the Rodenbach statue: "the courtyard of the MADHOUSE".

FOA13244 1 Georges Rodenbach
AL Stadsarchief archief St Lodewijks Feesten Plechtigh Oud Arch Ia164bis II5bis z2 XVI41 1r

Those Who Are in Search of the Living Bruges

Gradually, letters of protest reached the City Council. The City Archives of Bruges keep a large collection of those letters. Guido Gezelle is also present. Not only did he sign the circular letter of resistance from the “Davidsfonds” in May, but he also sent a personal protest letter: "You should erect statues in honour of those who are in search of the living Bruges, respectfully and morally". Gezelle's letter has now been described and digitally available in the Gezelle database.

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