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Thirty chapels and four open-air stands occupied by the brethren on the Sabbath. Collections made on behalf of the Association.
The brethren met for business in the Schoolroom of Wesley Chapel, Cardiff, on Monday and Tuesday, June 12th and 13th. The Report showed 1,973 benefit and 640 hon, members, total 2,563; this was an increase of 68 benefit and 23 hon. members. The benefit members' subscriptions this year, £1,010 18.; being a decrease of £32 118. 2d. The Treasurer invested this year, £500 in the Consols, raising the capital another figure, from 6 to 7-£7,138 78. 9d. Dr. Aldom was elected President, John Carter re-elected Treasurer, and Thos. Chamberlain, Hon. Secretary.
There was little business to transact, and the meeting sent a petition to the House of Commons on behalf of Sir Wilfrid Lawson's Permissive Bill.
The Magazine was ordered to be carried on under the same management for another year. The Editors were thanked for their past services; which vote was acknowledged by W. B. Carter. The profit on the Magazine for 1875 was £23 10s. 1d.
On Tuesday morning a number of the brethren and friends assembled round the Lord's table in Wesley Chapel, to commemorate the death of Christ.
It was moved at the business meeting, “That the present President be requested to deliver an official address to the brethren assembled at the next Annual Meeting.” This was once again re-establishing an old practice which had fallen out of use.
A public meeting was held on Monday evening at Roath Chapel; presided over by one of the hon. members, John Cory, Esq., and was addressed by Bros. Chamberlain, Pocock, Bowron, Wesley, Vernon, J. Carter, Sims, and Wade. Alas! Alas ! Brother Cuthbertson, whose voice had been heard at most of the annual gatherings, had been silenced by death the last year, to be heard no more.
BY J. W. LAYCOCK.
The history of England is so closely connected with that of the Netherlands as to invest the ancient cities of Holland and Belgium with an interest such as surrounds few places of resort on the Continent. In the days of our Plantagenet kings, they were England's great customer for wool to such an extent as to procure for Edward III., in the French Court, the derisive title of the Wool Merchant. They sent sixty thousand men to aid him in his wars with France, and contributed largely to the successes achieved. Henry V. formed alliances with their sovereigns.
Elizabeth, conscious that the interests of the two nationalities were identical, rendered, with parsimonious hand, some aid in the great struggle which the brave little nation conducted with the colossal power of Spain. When we cast out the Stuarts, from the Netherlands came the monarch who consolidated our civil liberties and Protestant religion, and did more than any other man of his day to check the ambition of the bigoted Louis XIV. Centuries before us in obtaining civil rights, and, like us, stubborn in defending them, they also resembled us in welcoming the light of the Reformation. Their martyr-roll is longer, probably, than that of any other nation of the same size; for they were as brave and unyielding at the stake as on the field of battle. Gladly therefore did I hail the opportunity afforded by a journey to Germany, of visiting the city whose name stands at the head of this
paper. On the 3rd of August last, I left London, accompanied by my son. Amid the splendours of sunset we steamed down the Thames, and ere night shrouded the shores of the broad estuary, were well on our way to Ostend. Soon after morning dawned, the Belgian coast slowly appeared upon the eastern horizon, and at 5 a.m.we were entering the port. There is little in Ostend worth delay; therefore the first available train carried us through a fertile district, in which harvest work was progressing leisurely, to the city of Bruges. Its lofty grey towers rise with befitting grandeur above the houses of what, in the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries, was the great commercial centre of Europe. Privileged trading companies from seventeen different kingdoms bad settled here; twenty foreign ministers resided within the walls, and inhabitants of remote districts encountered unheard-of difficulties to accomplish such a visit as we were paying without let or hindrance. Lombards and Venetians conveyed to Bruges the products of India and Italy, and returned home with the manufactures of England and Germany.
Bruges was long the residence of the Counts of Flanders, who in the fifteenth century seemed to carry magnificence and splendour to their greatest possible height. The dresses of both men and women at this chivalric epoch were of almost incredible expense. Velvet, satin, gold, and precious stones, seemed the ordinary materials for either sex; while the very
harness of the horses sparkled with brilliants, and cost immense
The Queen of Philip the Fair of France, on a visit to Bruges, exclaimed, with astonishment, “ I imagined myself alone to be queen, but I see hundreds of persons here whose attire vies with my own.” At a repast given by one of the Counts of Flanders to the Flemish magistrates, the seats they occupied were unfurnished with cushions. Those proud burghers folded their sumptuous cloaks and sat on them. After the feast they were retiring without putting on these costly articles of dress. On a courtier reminding them of their apparent neglect, the Burgomaster of Bruges replied, “ We Flemings are not in the habit of carrying away the cushions after dinner!" This absurd extravagance
was carried so far, that Charles V. found himself forced at length to proclaim laws for its repression.
Architecture was greatly cultivated in the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries ; most of the cathedrals and town halls being built in that age. Their vastness, solidity, and beauty of design and execution, make them yet speaking monuments of the stern magnificence and finished taste of the times. Immediately on entering Bruges, our steps were directed to one of these buildings—the Cathedral, whose massive west tower, resembling a castle, attracts attention long before the city is reached. built of brick, which, however, being grey in colour, when seen from a distance, looks much like stone. Gothic in style, of the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries, it is more imposing in massive strength than sym. metry.
The Cathedral is rich in pictures, which were shown to us by the Sacristan. One in the Sacristy, by Van Eyck, of the Virgin weeping, is very remarkable. The tears—to see which we stood upon a stool close to the picture-are as pellucid as if actually flowing from the Virgin's eyes. These ancient masters also painted glass and other accessories marvellously. Valuable, however, as the pictures are, they do not adorn, but often positively disfigure, the churches. They are generally enclosed in shabby frames, and hung wherever space can be found, without regard to the effect of the distribution upon the aspect of the building.
A short distance from the Cathedral is another large church of the thirteenth century, Notre Dame, with a tower 390 feet in height. It contains many pictures, but its chief treasures are the tombs of Charles the Bold, Duke of Burgundy (died 1477), and his daughter Mary (died 1482), wife of the Emperor Maximilian. These tombs are in a side chapel. Life-size recumbent figures of the duke and his daughter, in bronze, richly gilded, repose on marble sarcophagi, covered with armorial bearings of the estates which the Princess brought from the House of Austria.
Another great treasure of the church is a marble group of the Virgin and Child, by Michael Angelo. It is exceedingly beautiful, and stands in a black marble niche over the altar. The French carried it off to Paris during the wars of the Revolution. Horace Walpole is said to have offered thirty thousand florins for the statue.
The commerce of Bruges is now insignificant, and its prosperity gone; but its broad streets and old houses attest to its ancient glory. The ends of the houses abutting upon the streets, rise in steps more or less richly decorated to the point of the gable ; and, as nearly every one differs in form, height, or colour from its neighbour, the streets are most picturesque. Canals, with their numerous bridges, here, and also at Ghent, are peculiar features in the aspect of these cities. The walls of old houses, draped with creepers, rise from the surface of the water; and trees planted in the streets and gardens, give cool, still life to the
These canals are connected with a large dock, called the Bassin de Commerce, from which two broad and deep canals, accessible to sea-going vessels of considerable tonnage, are carried to the North Sea, a distance of seven-and-a-half miles, terminating at Ostend and Sluys. There are also canals from Bruges to Ghent, Ypres, Nieuport, and Furnes.
The artist will never lack material in this city. At every turn he may come upon quaint streets, traversed by figures, unfamiliar to the English eye ; women going to church or market in a type of black cloak, with a large hood, which gives them the appearance of nuns'; men working very leisurely, in conformity with the dreamy quiet of the old city, or, more frequently, letting strong dogs do the harder part of drawing any loads with which they may have to deal. Above these streets, church or belfry tower, crocketed pinnacle of town hall, or the gable of some ancient house, is sure to break the skyline and complete the picture.
Passing through the Place Simon Stevin, a square, planted with trees, and used as a fruit market, we came to the Grand Place, a large square, the principal market place of Bruges. One side of the square is occupied by the Halles, a Gothic building, erected in 1364 for a cloth hall. This extensive pile would, in the fourteenth century, be the great centre of life. Around it traders from the far north, from England, France, Spain, and Italy would congregate; for Bruges had been selected as the most convenient station to meet the commercial necessities of both Northern and Southern Europe. Navigation was then so imperfect, that to sail to Italy from any port in the Baltic, and to return again, was a voyage too great to be performed in one summer. For that reason, magazines, halfway between the commercial cities in the north and those in Italy, became necessary. Before the reign of Edward III. all the wool of England, except a small quantity wrought into coarse cloths for home consumption, was sold to Flemings and Lombards, and manufactured by them. That too would chiefly pass through the hands of the merchants of Bruges.
The Belfry, or Grande Tour, erected at the end of the fourteenth century, rises from the centre of that front of the Halles which faces the square. The two massive square storeys are flanked with corner turrets, and surmounted by a lofty octagon. It has the repute of containing the finest carillon in Europe. The bells, forty-eight in number, are played by curious machinery, which is exhibited to visitors. Every quarter of an hour, in tones
“ Most musical and solemn, bringing back the olden times,
Another memento of the days of ancient story stands on the east side of the market place. It is a house in which the citizens of Bruges, in the
year 1488, kept their monarch Maximilian, King of the Romans, prisoner, until he had solemnly sworn to renounce bis claim to the guardianship of his son, to respect the liberties of Bruges, and to forget the affront he had received. The determined character of the men of those days is strikingly illustrated by this transaction and its consequences. Maximi. lian being the son of the German Emperor, all Europe became interested in his fate during the time of his durance. The Pope addressed a brief to the town, demanding bis deliverance, and the Imperial army was directed to march against the city, without shaking the resolution of the Flemings to maintain their rights. The Emperor having entered the Netherlands at the head of forty thousand men, Maximilian, so supported, soon showed his contempt for the obligations he had sworn to, and bad recourse to force for the extension of his authority. The valour of the Flemings and the military talents of their leader, Philip of Cleves, thwarted all bis projects, and a new compromise was entered into. Flanders paid a large subsidy, and held fast her rights.
From the Great Square we passed through a narrow street to the Place du Bourg, where stands the Hotel de Ville, a highly decorated Gothic structure with six towers, three in front and three in the rear, began about 1377, and recently restored. Statues of the counts of Flanders fill forty-eight niches in the principal front. On their accession to the throne, these counts were in the habit of showing themselves to the people from one of the balconies or windows in front of this building, and swearing to maintain the privileges of the city.
Adjoining the Hotel de Ville is the Chapel of the Holy Blood, a small and elegant church of two storeys, dating from 1150 to 1400. The chapel derives its name from some drops of the blood of the Saviour, which Theodoric, Count of Flanders, is said to have brought from the Holy Land in 1150, and presented to the city. The Holy Blood being only exhibited on Fridays, we were unable to see what, apart from its sacredness in the eyes of Romanists, is certainly a very ancient and interesting relic.
Wishing to see something of the working classes. we traversed several streets where they reside. Women were seated in the sunshine at the doors of their houses, weaving the lace for which Flanders is celebrated, with mechanical celerity and deftness of habit, which allowed of conversation with neighbours without interruption of work. Contrasting with the aspect of the houses inhabited by the lower orders in French towns, we saw through open doors and windows that the interiors were clean, and pleasing in aspect and arrangement, although the people are said to be very poor.
With much regret that we had not more time at command, we left the ancient city-grand in her decay, and out of the common tourist routes, therefore almost forgotten in these days, when the rage ever increases to go further from home in travel.