- Wonderful introduction to Flanders in all its variety
- Visit led by renowned expert on Flemish Painting
- Itinerary focuses on van Eyck, Memling and other major Flemish renaissance masters
- Gentle pace with time for independent exploration
- Good hotel, wonderfully located and excellent food
Flanders was home to some of the greatest painters of the late Medieval and Renaissance periods. One of the most economically developed and culturally rich areas of Europe, it was ruled by the Dukes of Burgundy and subsequently by the Habsburgs, its wealth founded on the manufacture of high quality textiles and international trade. Cosmopolitan and enterprising, the great Flemish cities of Bruges and Ghent fostered developments that shaped the course of history, from international banking and the rise of printing to the Protestant Reformation.
These cities were also centres of artistic innovation. It was here that in the early fifteenth century Jan van Eyck, through the meticulous observation of reality and the skilful manipulation of oil paint, developed a naturalistic pictorial language that was to influence artists as far afield as Italy. A second, parallel, approach was pioneered by Roger van der Weyden, based largely in Brussels, whose work, no less technically accomplished, strove for a more spiritual presentation of sacred narratives. Both men came to influence subsequent generations with Hugo van der Goes in Ghent and above all, Hans Memling in Bruges, at the forefront of later developments.
We shall explore late Medieval Bruges, with its gothic Belfry and Cloth Hall, merchants’ houses, masterpieces by Van Eyck and Memling, and Michelangelo’s famous Madonna and Child – testimony to the international trade links between Bruges and Florence. We shall also visit Ghent, to see the great altarpiece of the Adoration of the Mystic Lamb by Jan and Hubert van Eyck.
The visit will be led by Paula Nuttall, one of the acknowledged experts on Flemish and Florentine painting in the fifteenth century and the author of several acclaimed books and exhibition catalogues. The visit will be based at the beautifully appointed 4* Hotel De Tuilerieën in Bruges, on one of the city’s principal canals, a stone’s throw from all the main sights. There will be ample opportunity for strolling along the tranquil canals of Bruges and sampling its myriad chocolate shops.
Day by day
- Day 1: Thursday 1 June
- We travel by Eurostar to Lille and onwards by coach to Bruges. A light meal and drinks will be served on the train. On arrival there will be an Introductory Walk in the historic centre of medieval Bruges, taking in its commercial and civic buildings and squares, including the famous Gothic Belfry and the Town Hall, enabling us to imagine the city in its mercantile heyday. The Belfry sits atop a covered market, begun about 1280 and by 1486 the present silhouette was complete. The Town Hall was built between 1376 and 1420 and the architect was Pieter van Oost. Though small in scale, its exuberant external embellishment with a steeply pitched roof and overhanging turrets crowned by spires all add to a festive air; inside, the spectacular wooden ceiling of the Aldermens’ chamber dates from the 1370s. Later that evening we have our first group dinner - wine, water and coffee will be included with all group dinners.
- Day 2: Friday 2 June
- We begin at Bruges’s Groeninge Museum, where we have our first encounter with fifteenth century Flemish painting. Undoubtedly the star of the collection is Jan van Eyck’s glorious Virgin with Canon van der Paele. The Museum has an important work by Hans Memling, the Moreel Triptych, together with works by or attributed to Roger van der Weyden, Hugo van der Goes, Gerard David and Hieronymus Bosch. After some free time for lunch (not included) the afternoon will be spent in the old Merchants’ Quarter. Bruges was a member of the Hanseatic League and from the fourteenth century merchants from England, Spain, Germany and Italy established close links. Hof Bladelin was built about 1440 by Pieter Bladelin, Treasurer to Duke Phillip the Good but was subsequently acquired in 1466 by Tommaso Portinari for the Medici Bank and given some “Italianate” additions. We conclude our walk at St James’s Church, after which the formal part of the day will end and the evening will be free for private explorations.
- Day 3: Saturday 3 June
- Ghent is about an hour away from Bruges by coach and was, like Bruges, a great cloth-producing centre in the middle ages and also derived its wealth from river traffic. Our main visit will be to St Bavo’s Cathedral, home to the great Adoration of the Mystic Lamb Altarpiece by Jan and Hubert van Eyck. We shall gain an idea of the complexity of this masterpiece through a full-scale replica before looking at the altarpiece itself, as lecturing is not allowed in front of the original. NB: the altarpiece is currently undergoing conservation and a few of its twenty four panels may not be on display. The morning ends with a walk through the historic city centre where the Graslei and Korenlei Merchant Houses are important survivals. After some free time for lunch (not included) our coach will take the group to the city’s Museum of Fine Arts. Here we shall visit a special exhibition on the restoration of the Van Eyck altarpiece seen earlier in the day, and it should be possible to see some of the panels undergoing conservation. It also contains many interesting paintings, with a fine Carrying of the Cross by Hieronymus Bosch. We return to Bruges and the rest of the evening will be free.
- Day 4: Sunday 4 June
- We leave the hotel on foot for a morning visit to Old St John’s Hospital. Founded in the twelfth century, its medieval wards now house a fascinating collection narrating the hospital’s past as a centre of medical care. However, it is perhaps more famous as it also houses the Hans Memling Museum, devoted to the leading painter in late fifteenth century Bruges. German by birth, Memling (who died in 1494) spent most of his life in Bruges. He built up a prosperous business as he was one of the city’s largest taxpayers in 1480. His religious works are full of figures calmly pious in their spirituality such as in the St John Triptych. He was also a gifted portraitist, as seen in the Diptych of Marrten van Niewenhove, a type of half-length that may have been known to Italian artists such as Perugino and Giovanni Bellini. After our visit, the rest of the afternoon will be free for independent exploration. Our final group dinner will be in a local restaurant.
- Day 5: Monday 5 June
- On our last morning, we leave on foot for the Church of Our Lady, home since 1506 to Michelangelo’s Bruges Madonna and where the last Duke of Burgundy, Charles the Bold (d.1477), and his daughter Mary of Burgundy (d.1482), are buried in a pair of superb gilded bronze tombs. Our final visit will be to the unusual Jerusalem Church, built in the fifteenth century as a copy of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem. It was commissioned by the wealthy Adornes family who had come to Bruges in the thirteenth century from Genoa. After some free time for lunch (not included) we travel by coach to Lille, where we take the Eurostar to London.
- Price: £1,670 per person
- Price without Eurostar: £1,595
- Deposit: £225
- Single Supplement: £395 (Double Room for Sole Use)
- Tour Manager: Geoffrey Nuttall
4 Nights with Breakfast at the 4* Tuilerieën
- Outward: Depart London St Pancras 1058 Arrive Lille 1326
- Return: Depart Lille 1736 Arrive London St Pancras 1806
Standard Premier Seating includes a light meal and drinks served to your seat
2 Dinners with water, wine & coffee, all local transfers, entry fees & gratuities, services of Paula Nuttall & tour manager Geoffrey Nuttall
Travel to & from London St Pancras, 2 Dinners & 4 Lunches
Weather Conditions for Bruges in June are:
Average Temperature between: 11oC - 22oC / 51oF - 71oF
Average Rainfull: 76mm / 3 inches
We do expect a reasonable level of fitness. For full details see our frequently asked questions.