Oldest house in Flanders and torture museum all in one


Manor house De Oude Steen in Bruges is the oldest surviving house in Flanders. This is what research by the Flanders Heritage Agency recently found. 

Anyone looking up at the plastered and white-painted frame facade of the premises at Wollestraat 29 in Bruges, near the Grote Markt, would not suspect that they were standing in front of the oldest surviving house in Flanders. More than 800 years old, at least the basement. This is evident from dendrochronological examination of the annual growth rings of the oak beams, which are fixed in the original walling. Wood samples were taken with an auger: long cigar-shaped sticks with broad and narrow annual rings intermingled on them. Wide annual rings indicate favourable weather conditions; narrow ones indicate a very dry year, for example. Comparing the ring pattern with the reference weather calendar from the Middle Ages reveals the period in which the tree grew, it was felled and used to cut beams. The research yielded a perfect match: the outer ring is dated 1177 and the tree was felled between that year and 1205.  

Feel free to go and see it for yourself ... at least if you dare. For know that the basement, the city's oldest prison, also houses the Torture Museum. Dozens of lifelike wax figures there endure the most terrible pains on, in and under ancient torture devices, some authentic. Of the 100 or so, you will probably recognise the guillotine, gallows, strappado, rack table, peg chair, thumbscrews, etc.