Every year, the Procession of the Holy Blood takes place on Ascension Day in Bruges. The centerpiece is the coagulated relic of the Precious Blood of Christ. Sixty to hundred thousand spectators are watching this parade of historical and biblical scenes.
The historical tradition of Bruges says that after the descent from the Cross, Joseph of Arimathea took some of His blood and preserved it. Thierry of Alsace, Count of Flanders, received the relic in the Holy Land and brought it to Bruges. The Precious Blood arrived in Bruges, together with the Count, his wife Sybilla of Anjou and the abbot of Saint Bertin on April 7th 1150. The oldest document however, concerning this Holy Grail of Bruges, dates back to 1256. So, probably, the Holy Blood was one of a whole series of relics connected with the suffering of Christ, looted when the imperial city of Constantinople was sacked during the 4th crusade in 1204, and sent by Baldwin IX to Flanders. It is known that there was a relic of the Holy Blood in the Bubcoleon palace of Constantinople. The manner in which the rock-crystal flask is cut also indicates an origin in Constantinople.
The oldest mention of the Holy Blood Procession dates back to 1291. The guilds of Bruges were obliged to participate in a procession of horse- and guilds-men, artisans and marksmen, city councillors and clergy marching in all their splendour with the relic round the city walls. In the 15th and 16th century, profane scenes with giants, the mythical Bayard Horse and the chambers of rhetoric of Bruges were added to the biblical scenes of the mystery plays. The Noble Brotherhood of the Holy Blood is for centuries the organiser of this procession. The theme still is some sort of a Quest for the Holy Grail: a search for the meaning of life and the pursuit of happiness and fulfilment that got many names – like the Kingdom of God or the New Jerusalem… This idea Bruges being a new Jerusalem also is far from new: Bruges was deliberately built as this New Jerusalem.
Full photo reportage here!