Ten archaeologists have been examining the church in the centre of Bruges since the end of May. Digging work to construct an underground pump station is currently also underway. When complete this station will help to clean up the waters of the Reien, the quintessentially West Flemish name for the canals of Bruges.
Archaeologists have already made several interesting finds including a painted burial vault dating from the Middle Ages.
The thousand-year-old graves that take the human form are wider at the shoulders and narrower at the feet. A niche was set out to accommodate the head. Graves like these were used during the 10th and 11th centuries, but sometimes as early as the 8th century.
This is one of the first times graves of this type have been discovered in Bruges. The graves are believed to be about a thousand years old making them some of the oldest items to be excavated in the city.
“Unfortunately, no grave survived entirely intact” says Bruges Mayor De fauw. “Many people were buried at the church in subsequent years. That’s why the graves were damaged. One grave that includes everything from the pelvis to the head is the best preserved one”.
The Church of Our Lady is the second oldest parish church in Bruges and was mentioned as far back as 1075, when it was said that the church was 200 years old. Little about Bruges at this time is known. Excavations of the lowest levels of the church, where the graves were found, should help to provide greater knowledge. It’s hoped the bones will be able to tell us more about the age of the church.