It was quite a surprise arriving in Bruges to be greeted by a parade. As we stood still carrying our backpacks, we quickly got a few pictures of the marching band as they passed us. We didn’t think much of it until later when we went to meet up with Beth’s parents and found ourselves in the middle of a full procession. We just happened to arrive on what the locals call Brugges Schoonste Dag -- the most beautiful day in Bruges.
As legend has it, at the end of the Second Crusade a Count from Flanders returned with a vial of holy blood from Jerusalem. It is said to contain a cloth with the blood of Christ and has been venerated in Bruges since at least the 1250’s. Since the 1300’s the holy relic has been paraded through the town on Ascension Day, the day Jesus ascended into heaven after his resurrection.
The parade is a passion play, telling the story of the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus. After seeing the more somber ceremonial procession in Greece during Easter, it was interesting to see the more lively, theatrical and quirky way the story was played out on the streets of Bruges. The float born props along with actors would stop periodically to perform each portion of the story. It was especially fun to see the huge stone tomb of Jesus make its way down the street complete with sleeping Roman soldiers.