Welcome to the Gruuthusemuseum
The museum has a total of fourteen tactile stations and one station with olfactory elements. Additional information is provided about what these objects look like and the best way to explore them. If you only want to include the tactile stations in your visit, simply follow the route directions.We hope you have a wonderful time listening to the audio guide and discovering everything on display
Welcome to the Gruuthusemuseum! This is a model of the whole site. We will shortly provide you with more information about the model, but first some background information about the building.
In the 15th century, it is an impressive Burgundian city palace. It was built by Louis de Gruuthuse, and his father before him, on a large family estate. You will learn all about Louis in this room. Soon, you will enter his oratory, a private chapel looking into the church, as he and his wife, Margaretha of Borssele, once did many centuries ago. The private chapel is directly connected to the Church of Our Lady.
In the 1600s, After Louis and Margaretha, a Mount of Piety, or pawnshop, is established in the former city palace. It is called Mons Pietatis in Latin; people in financial trouble pawn their possessions here in exchange for cash.
We now make a leap through time. Shortly before 1900, the dilapidated palace gets a new lease of life: the City of Bruges converts it into a museum, right in the middle of the city, in a building dating from Bruges' heyday: the 15th century! The former Burgundian city palace is thoroughly restored and regains its former grandeur, in the Bruges style of the late 1800s: the neo-Gothic.
Architect Louis Delacenserie is inspired by similar buildings and by Louis de Gruuthuse, founder of the Burgundian city palace. You can still find traces of him in various places in the museum, such as on the beam in the ceiling. It is decorated with the entwined letters L and M of Louis and his wife, Margaretha. The daisies (Margriet in Dutch) are a reference to her name. You'll find Louis' coat of arms and his French personal motto; Plus est en vous, which is also the museum's motto. You’ll discover traces of Louis and Margaretha in other rooms too.
Recently, we updated the museum site; the renovations include a new Pavilion. Enjoy your visit!
As mentioned in the introduction, right in front of you is a model of the museum site, which you can go ahead and explore by touch. The model is made from white plastic and is positioned on a slightly elevated shelf on a large, dark wooden table. The museum's motto: Plus est en vous is featured in gold letters on the sloping edge of the table. This motto crops up in a number of places in the museum and means 'Be the best you can be', 'Be ambitious'.The most striking part of the model is the tall tower of the Church of Our Lady, at the back on the right. If you start at the spire and run your fingers downwards, you reach the point where the spire merges into the square tower below. On each corner of the square tower is a small tower featuring another spire. Follow the large tower downwards again and you arrive at the choir section of the church with its buttresses and flying buttresses. If you feel the flying buttresses on the left side of the tower you will notice that there is another building next to the church. This second building, literally connected to the church is Gruuthuse palace. The two buildings are linked by a prayer chapel. But more about that later.If you explore the building further you notice that it is indeed considerably lower than the church. Gruuthusemuseum has four floors and a roof incorporating many dormers and towers. A building has been constructed both on the left and right of the museum. On the left, at a 90-degree angle is a robust, stone building. This is also part of the museum. On the right is a low construction with pronounced angles: this is the pavilion where admission tickets can be purchased. In between these buildings is a square with an irregular floor plan. If you feel the square you can recognise the Gruuthusemuseum by the dotted line along the façade. Near the dotted line is a capital letter A, right in front of the museum entrance.Opposite the museum is an elongated building with stepped gables. You can follow the different roofs and stepped gables from right to left. Almost at the end you can feel a passage. This is the gateway to the domain, and also the last room of the concierge's residence. On the corner you can feel part of the Arentshuis. This is the large mansion located in the adjacent part, built partly over the River Reie. Let’s move right on to the next tactile element, also on this table. Listen to number 2 on the audio guide and move along the table to the right.
As already mentioned, the model is positioned on a long, dark, wooden table. If you walk a little further along the right side of the table you reach the next tactile element. Here you can touch the materials used to build the façade of the Gruuthuse palace and explore the smallest details of the façade.
This tactile element consists of three parts, which are each positioned on a slightly elevated shelf, just like the model we previously described. The three parts are: the main façade, the building materials and the Reie façade on the east side.
Part one focuses on the building's main façade. If you follow the profile of the wooden shelf, in the top-right corner you feel a mini floor plan of the site, with part of the Church of Our Lady on the far right. Slightly lower on the left is the Gruuthusemuseum, which is connected to the church by the prayer chapel. Right in front of the museum is an inner square, which has an irregular shape and on the other side an elongated building with the concierge's residence. In the centre of the square is a capital letter A, and an arrow pointing to the main façade.
We will now concentrate on the main façade of the Gruuthusemuseum, which looks out on to the square. In the centre of the tactile panel, on the left below the mini floor plan, you can feel the building's façade. Below the façade you can feel a dotted line and the capital letter A, the same as on the mini floor plan. We begin at the roof. A tower sticks out approximately halfway along the building. Feel that the roof to the left of the tower is quite a bit higher than the roof to its right. If you move your fingers downwards, from the roof on the left side, the highest of the two roof sections, you feel the details of the protruding dormers and especially the windows. More or less in the centre of the façade you might be able to feel a 'window' that is shaped differently from the others: instead of a rounded top it has a point and instead of slats you can feel there are curved shapes. This is because it is not a real window, but the niche above the entrance. In the real niche there is a statue of a rider on horseback, but it is missing on this tactile element. Underneath you can feel a high door with several steps leading up to it. Light limestone was used for the frames of the windows, doors and dormers and the eaves, but we will return to that shortly, in number 1 of the building materials.
We remain a little longer at this tactile element and now turn our attention to the right side of the façade. Feel that this section is lower than the left side of the façade. If you feel the roof you can search for the tower again, which is more or less in the middle. The façade is constructed from reddish-brown brick and corresponds to number 2 on the tactile element of the building materials. You will find out more about the building materials in part two of this tactile element.
Part two, building materialsThe next part of this tactile element, consisting of the different building materials, is directly on the right of the tactile panel featuring the building's main façade.If you move your hands from the top to the bottom of this element, you first encounter the lime sandstone, used in the frames of the windows, doors, dormers and eaves. This sandstone has a light, soft yellow colour. Right below you can feel the reddish-brown brick, which is used for the façade. Below the brick we find the slate, used for the roof. This slate is dark grey. The fourth and final material is a piece of stained glass. Just like the other fragments it is a small rectangle, but you can feel that it is divided into several pieces. The smooth parts are the coloured pieces of glass; the thick ridges in between are the lead used to hold the whole thing together. In the centre there is a small piece of red glass, shaped like a square standing on its point. It is surrounded by alternating blue and translucent white pieces of glass.We already explored the lime sandstone and brick in the main façade in the first part of this tactile element. The façade contained two circles with a number. Number 1, at the eaves, refers to the lime sandstone and number 2, on the right side of the façade, refers to the brick. In the third part we get to know the Reie façade, or the east façade of the building. You will find two circles in this façade too, containing a number that corresponds to the material used: 3 for the slate and 4 for the stained glass.
Part three, Reie façade or east façade
The third and final part of this tactile element is structured in the same way as the first part featuring the main façade. If you follow the profile of the wooden shelf, in the top-right corner you feel a mini floor plan of the site, with part of the Church of Our Lady on the far right. Slightly lower on the left is the Gruuthusemuseum, which is connected to the church by the prayer chapel. Right in front of the museum is an inner square, which has an irregular shape and on the other side the elongated building with the concierge's residence. On the left of the mini floor plan there is a capital letter B and an arrow pointing to the east façade of the palace.
We are now focusing on the east façade, on the left side of the mini floor plan. In the middle of the tactile element, to the left of the mini floor plan, you can feel the east façade or Reie façade. Approximately halfway along the building, a little to the left, protrudes another tower. Notice that an open balcony has been constructed on the right against the slender tower with a spire. Directly below the balcony is another tower; this belvedere tower is a remarkable construction.
If you move your hand downwards from the tower with the balcony you reach the roof of the building. This roof, just like the spire of the tower, is covered in dark grey slate. You were able to explore the slate under number three in the second tactile element. If you follow the line of the roof to the right you will feel the occasional protrusion. These are the chimneys of the fireplaces. Right at the very end of the roof you will notice that there is one more chimney and you end up at a lower building. Below the façade there is another dotted line, under which is a letter B. This B corresponds to the B on the mini floor plan at the top on the right, which refers to the east façade. If you feel the bottom of the façade, you notice a number of openings on the left side of this half. Now move your fingers to the end of the façade on the left side and up once more until you can feel the highest tower again.Below the roof with the high chimney, to the left of the tower you can feel an extremely detailed part of the façade, containing a number of stained-glass windows. This stained glass was also described under number four in the second tactile element. This concludes the façades of the Gruuthuse palace and the materials used. If you want to go directly to the next tactile panel please proceed to the next room. Take care, there are four steps and no handrail. The tactile panel is located in the middle of the wall on the left and corresponds to number 6 in the audio guide. If you would like to stay a little longer in this room and carry on listening, listen to number 3 for the portrait of Louis de Gruuthuse.
This is the portrait of Louis de Gruuthuse of Bruges, founder of this 15th-century Burgundian city palace. The portrait was painted here in Bruges in around 1480, in oil on panel. Louis welcomes us to the museum named after his family. He is holding a rosary. This is probably the right half of a diptych. The left side probably featured Mary and the Child Jesus. Number 8 of this audio guide provides a more detailed description of the portrait. It is a tactile element in room 2.
The bottom of the frame features the words Plus est en vous, 'Be the best you can be', 'Be ambitious'. Louis' personal motto is also the museum's guiding principle. The objects that you will discover show the very best of themselves. We are talking about their beauty, the talent of their makers, the ambition of those who commissioned these works, and their importance for Bruges...
But: who is Louis de Gruuthuse, the fifty or sixty-year-old in this portrait? His family amassed great wealth from selling 'gruut', a herbal mixture used in brewing beer. Later, the Gruuthuse family collect taxes on the import and brewing of most types of beer. Louis also has a private fiefdom, whose lands and taxes generate considerable sums.
Around his neck Louis is wearing the collar of the Order of the Golden Fleece, the highest order of knighthood in the Burgundian Netherlands. This is because the nobleman belongs to the elite. From an early age, he is part of the close entourage of the Dukes of Burgundy. They hold court in, among other places, Bruges, an ambitious city of European importance.
Plus est en vous: this also applies to many local Bruges residents from Louis' era. You can find out all about them and their ambitions on the ground floor.
This city map, painted by an anonymous master between 1546 and 1600, depicts the Gruuthusemuseum’s leading actor: Bruges! All the objects in the museum tell stories about the city and its people, from the Burgundian period to the early 20th century, spanning more than 500 years. The collection is an assortment of masterpieces. Prestigious objects produced in or for the city, for society’s elite.
But let's return to this map dated after 1546. It was painted in oil on canvas and was commissioned by the city council. Originally, the painting was up to five metres wide and included the neighbouring municipalities of Damme and Sluis. Roughly from Bruges to the sea. Only the city centre has been preserved, which means the painting now measures around two by two metres.
The map also provides a perspective view of the main buildings: City Hall, the Belfry, important churches and monasteries, and the so-called nation houses... Beyond the double moat with its city gates, waterways connect Bruges to the sea and the hinterland. Around 1550, some of these are new connections. They are constructed because Bruges is becoming increasingly difficult to access via the Zwin, the estuary that connects the city to the North Sea. Bruges is at risk of being cut off from the sea! Hence the new canals, with the accompanying bridges and locks. They must safeguard trade. In the Middle Ages and later, water is Bruges’ asset and the source of its prosperity. Number 22 of the audio guide relating to room 8 provides more information about these new waterways using a map you can touch.
In this room, you will discover another cityscape, in the painting with the kneeling family on the two panels. It also shows the Bruges skyline and its most important towers in the background: the Belfry, St. Donatian's Cathedral, which no longer exists, and the nearby Church of Our Lady. The kneeling family is the Spanish-Flemish Pardo family, who belonged to the Bruges elite. On one side of the diptych we find Juan II Pardo with nine praying children behind him; his sons. The other side of the diptych shows his two wives: Anna Ingenieulandt and Maria Anchemant, with their daughters. Each panel is circa two metres high and 60 cm wide. The diptych was painted in 1580 by Antonius Claeissens. In the 15th century, Bruges is a prosperous metropolis with beautiful buildings such as this city palace, with colourful spectacles and parades, and with an abundance of art, which you will be introduced to in the other rooms on this floor.Please take care: when you move towards the next room you will go down some stairs. The narrow stairs consists of four steps and there is no handrail.