Childhood and Youth in Bruges


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Guido Gezelle was born at noon on Saturday the 1st of May 1830 in the Rolweg in Bruges. He was the oldest child of Pieter-Jan Gezelle and Monica De Vriese. He was given the name of his godfather, the Baron Guido van Zuylen. This Baron was related to Gezelle's landlord, Théodore van de Walle.


Gezelle was baptized at home provisionally, immediately after his birth on the 1st of May. In labour there had been complications and it was feared that he wouldn’t survive. Later the same day he was formally baptized in the Church of Saint-Anne in Bruges. In the parish register you can find Gezelle's name and his parents’. The christening cloth used to be on display at the museum of Guido Gezelle. He also received his First Communion in St. Anne's Church. After Guido four more children followed: Romaan, Louise, Jozef and Florence.

GGA 9537 F Church of Saint-Anne
GGA 9081 F Font, Church of Saint-Anne

The Mills

Gezelle grew up in a rural environment near the mills on the city ramparts. He often listened to the stories of miller Pieter Gevaert. He read from the Bible to the children of the neighbourhood. Just before he died in the English Convent, Gezelle reminisced about the mill and the miller in an English text.

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Gezelle about the childhood mill

Foto Gezelle audiobijgesneden
Guido Gezelle
English sermon, It is 6.30 in the Evening, 1899.

Gezelle Image

We only have pictures of Gezelle as an older man. That is why we usually imagine him as an old person. By means of artificial intelligence we can estimate what he looked like as a child.

The development below was made by Xander Steenbrugge from ML6, a company in Ghent that specializes in artificial intelligence

Gezelle kind

Have a look at Gezelle as a child. This image was created by means of artificial intelligence.

Primary School (1837-1839)

Gezelle went to school on the Kraanplein in Bruges. The Dutchman Joannes Brans from Amsterdam, was a teacher at first and later became the headmaster of the State Primary School of Bruges during “The United Kingdom of the Netherlands”. This is the period in which Belgium and the Netherlands were united under the Dutch King (1815-1830). After the independence of Belgium(1830), Brans transformed the institution into a private school.

GGA040903 27bdetail Diploma from the school of J. Brans

The Brans School

Gezelle went to the school, during the school years 1837-1839. Looking back on that period, Gezelle wrote that Brans and his colleague De Valck left him with an aversion to the Dutch language as it was written and spoken in the Netherlands. Gezelle considered the West-Flemish dialect to be the most original and pure form of Dutch. He associated Standard Dutch with degeneration and Protestantism. He probably had to leave the school early due to his poor health. Later, he most likely went to a parish school.

Secondary School (1841-1849)

Gezelle started secondary school at the Episcopal College, Our Lady Of the Dunes in Bruges on the 1st of October 1841. The former abbey of “Ter Duinen” had been abolished during the French Regime, in 1843 it was reinstituted as a college and a seminary. Despite his excellent school results Gezelle had to leave the school because the family could no longer afford it. In 1846 Gezelle left for Roeselare to finish his education in the “Minor Seminary”. In 1848, as a student, Gezelle was already writing poetry.

GGA050903 03b r Paper containing swear words, curses and drawings made by Gezelle during his student days
“Caractère: Bon; un peu nonchalant - sa vocation ns paraît douteuse, capacité: grande, piété: satisfaisante, conduite: bonne, application: moins soutenue”
Headmaster J. Faict talking about the student Gezelle - 1849

Major Seminary (1850-1854)

In October 1850 Gezelle returned to the Major Seminary of Bruges in order to become a priest. There were doubts about his vocation, but the Seminary accepted him because of his exceptional writing skills.

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