Apart from the wonderful gargoyles on major buildings such as the City Hall, the Burghers’ Lodge (Poortersloge) and the Provincial Palace (Provinciaal Hof), which we’ll see in future posts, you can also find some distinctive gargoyles on the Old Customs House and the Post Office building.
What is now Jan van Eyck Square (Jan van Eyckplein), with its statue of the Flemish painter erected in the 19th century, was originally the bourgeois and financial heart of Bruges and a Medieval centre for trade from 1200 onwards. The square is surrounded by magnificent buildings, some of which were restored in the 19th century. They include the Old Customs House (Het Tolhuis).
The Old Customs House (Het Tolhuis) dates back to 1477 and has undergone a series of rebuilding and restoration work. It was where taxes for imported goods were paid. It’s worth remembering that a major commercial port sprang up around the Bruges canals. In the 19th century, the Old Customs House went from fulfilling a commercial function to being a cultural centre, although the ground floor also housed a fire station up until the 1960s. Next door is the Porters’ Lodge (Pijndershuisje) which was where the dock workers gathered in the Middle Ages.
On the Old Customs House there is a superb gargoyle, a winged quadruped with bat’s wings and a goatee beard giving him a devilish appearance.
In the main square, or Market Square (Grote Markt), is the Post Office building (Posterjen), one of the beautiful, fabulous buildings surrounding the square and built in the late 19th century.
Three gargoyles jut out from the Post Office building. They are heads with a long grooved neck, like the ones we saw at Cork Cathedral (Ireland). One of the heads is a monster with slightly pointed ears and a goatee beard. The other two are human heads with a hood or cap.
When you walk around Bruges, you occasionally come across houses with gargoyles jutting out from their façades.
Strolling along Spanjaardstraat, we found a house with two very distinctive gargoyles. They’re heads of small monsters with a prominent nose and a body in the form of flames.
On Wollestraat, two winged quadrupeds with dogs‘ heads and a magnificent ram gaze down at us from the top of one of its lovely buildings.
Fabulous gargoyles that add a little extra to the fairytale magic of this romantic city.
Doctora en Historia del Arte. Investigadora especializada en el estudio de las gárgolas.