Facelift for St John's Hospital Museum in Bruges


Centuries-old masterpieces alongside contemporary art bear witness in Bruges’ Sint-Janshospitaal museum to our past and present views on hospitality, empathy, illness, care and healing, suffering and death.

Around 1150, the oldest preserved hospital building was erected on what is now the Mariastraat in Bruges. Anyone needing care could go there, but so could travellers looking for a place to sleep. The Latin hospes, for guest, is clearly recognisable in the word hospital, which is also sometimes called a guesthouse. From 1800, people moved to no fewer than sixteen newly built wards on the outskirts of the city, while the original site grew into Museum Sint-Janshospitaal. 

Central to the collection is the 15th-century Flemish primitive Hans Memling. No fewer than four of his seven masterpieces here were created especially for St John's. Including an altarpiece and two triptychs that are brought together in the new display in a specially built glass structure. His famous Ursula shrine is in the adjacent hospital church. It contains the saint's relics, depicts her legend in beautiful paintings on the walls and is among the seven wonders of Belgium. Reclining-Arcangelo II and The Bridge, modern art by our compatriot Berlinde De Bruyckere and Australian Patricia Piccinini respectively enter into dialogue with ancient art. 

Don't miss the imposing oak roof truss, the authentic 17th-century interior of the hospital pharmacy and the herb garden.