In the brilliant Belgian era of the Dukes of Burgundy (1388 to 1477), then the richest sovereigns of Europe, more wealthy than the kings of France, the most powerful of the Flemish nobles serving those Dukes were the Gruuthuse clan. This is their home, appropriately splendid. And if you'd care to glimpse the gulf that separated such a man as Louis de Gruuthuse from the ordinary citizens of Bruges, head to the Gruuthuse private chapel; its windows cut into the wall of the immense, adjoining Church of Our Lady, so that Louis and the Gruuthuses could witness and attend services from their own home, unsullied by the presence of common folk!

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Thousands of household and decorative items of antiquity are displayed in the labyrinth of rooms and winding stone staircases that make up the Gruuthuse, including paintings by various minor masters of Bruges, illustrated panels of wood and wood sculpture, 15th- to 18th-century furniture, textiles, tapestries, embroidery and lace, weapons, and musical instruments. Though most items postdate the actual time of the Gruuthuses, enough relates to the 15th and 16th centuries to provide you with a sense of the manner in which such over-privileged nobility lived.


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