A Weekend in Belgium

Reprinted by kind permission from the Newsletter of
Basingstoke Archaeological & Historical Society

Members were invited to join the Tyndale Society on this weekend organised by Graham Hall, a past chairman of our Society. My husband, Bob, and I took up the chance to join what turned out to be a select company of 11 in a minibus, and we crammed a great deal into a few days.

Some of us had a morning walking tour of Bruges — not walking exactly for our guide led us in an electric invalid chair. We thought that very enterprising and admired his fluent English. his knowledge and love of Bruges, and his sense of humour. He was full of information about the statues that adorn the exterior of the Chapel of the Holy Blood and the Recorder's House etc. One delight that is probably not seen by many visitors to Bruges is the courtyard of a convent, a building first owned by the Medicis. On the wall were superb medallion plaques of Lorenzo the Magnificent and his wife. A little nun came bustling out to show us something, opening a door to what we imagined might be a staircase — it turned out to be a loo which she thought we might need!

In the afternoon Bob and I spent a happy time in the Memling Museum, and also in the apothecary shop of St John's Hospital where an amazing bank of minute cupboards is exactly as it was in a 15th century painting; and where the portraits of Tutors give a wonderful sequence of faces from 1606 to the present.

Dr. Guido Latré from the Catholic University of Leuven had sent us a sheet of historical background, and he joined us in the evening at a Banquet to celebrate the marriage in 1468 of Charles the Bold to Margaret of York, sister of our own Edward IV. The entertainment included dancers, tumblers, a fire-eater and a Russian eagle!

Next day we moved on to Vilvoorde on the outskirts of Brussels, to visit the Tyndale Museum which displays material relating to William Tyndale, whose translation of the Bible became the basis of many since, and who was 'shopped' for heresy by agents of our Henry VIII and martyred at Vilvoorde. The Museum is attached to the Protestant Church, and we were delighted to be invited to attend the Sunday morning service there, followed by coffee with the small and very welcoming congregation.

Dr. Latré joined us again in Antwerp to guide us round the amazing Plantin-Moretus Museum. I could have spent a week there! Christopher Plantin set up a printing business attached to his house, which passed to his son-in-law Moretus and flourished there till the 19th century. Treasures include Rubens portraits of Plantin and his wife; early manuscripts; a variety of books in many languages, with fonts devised by Plantin (the Plantin typeface was one of the mainstays of hot-metal type); wonderful rooms in the house, with richly decorated leather wall-hanging; a room full of printing presses, with banks of type waiting to be used; the type foundry itself (upstairs!); and, a touch that delighted me, the proof-correctors' room.

The following morning Professor Latré gave us a walking tour of Leuven, leaving us for lunch in the capable hands of a research student who gave us the low-down on university life there — different in so many ways from English universities.

Barbara Applin

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