The belfry of Bruges, or Belfort, is a medieval bell tower and one of the Bruges' most prominent symbols. The belfry formerly housed a treasury and the municipal archives, and served as an observation post for spotting fires and other danger. A narrow, steep staircase of 366 steps, accessible by the public for an entry fee, leads to the top of the 83-metre-high building, which leans about a metre to the east.
The belfry was added to the market square around 1240, when Bruges was prospering as an important centre of the Flemish cloth industry. After a devastating fire in 1280, the tower was largely rebuilt. The city archives, however, were forever lost to the flames.
The octagonal upper stage of the belfry was added between 1483 and 1487, and capped with a wooden spire bearing an image of Saint Michael, banner in hand and dragon underfoot. The spire did not last long: a lightning strike in 1493 reduced it to ashes, and destroyed the bells as well. A wooden spire crowned the summit again for some two-and-a-half centuries, before it, too, fell victim to flames in 1741. The spire was never replaced again, thus making the current height of the building somewhat lower than in the past; but an openwork stone parapet in Gothic style was added to the rooftop in 1822.
The bells in the tower regulated the lives of the city dwellers, announcing the time, fire alarms, work hours, and a variety of social, political, and religious events. Eventually a mechanism ensured the regular sounding of certain bells, for example indicating the hour.
In the 16th century the tower received a carillon, allowing the bells to be played by means of a hand keyboard. Starting from 1604, the annual accounts record the employment of a carilloneur to play songs during Sundays, holidays and market days. In 1675 the carillon comprised 35 bells, designed by Melchior de Haze of Antwerp. After the fire of 1741 this was replaced by a set of bells cast by Joris Dumery, 26 of which are still in use. There were 48 bells at the end of the 19th century, but today the bells number 47, together weighing about 27.5 tonnes. The bells range from weighing two pounds to 11,000 pounds.
Belfry of Bruges is part of the UNESCO World Heritage Site Belfries of Belgium and France.References:
The St Sophia's Cathedral was built between 1045-1050 inside the Novgorod Kremlin (fortress). It is one of the earliest stone structures of northern Russia. Its height is 38 m. Originally it was taller, for during the past nine centuries the lower part of the building became concealed by the two-metre thick cultural layer. The cathedral was built by Prince Vladimir, the son of Yaroslav the Wise, and until the 1130s this principal church of the city also served as the sepulchre of Novgorodian princes. For the Novgorodians, St Sophia became synonymous with their town, the symbol of civic power and independence.
The five-domed church looks simpler but no less impressive than its prototype, the thirteen-domed St Sophia of Kiev. The cathedral exterior is striking in its majesty and epic splendour evoking the memories of Novgorod's glorious past and invincible might. In the 11th century it looked more imposing than now. Its facade represented a gigantic mosaic of huge, coarsely trimmed irregular slabs of flagstone and shell rock. In some places (particularly on the apses), the wall was covered with mortar, smoothly polished, drawn up to imitate courses of brick or of whitestone slabs, and slightly coloured. As a result, the facade was not white, as it is today, but multicoloured. The play of stone, decorative painting and the building materials of various texture enhanced the impression of austere simplicity and introduced a picturesque effect.
The two-storied galleries extend along the building's southern, western and northern sides, with a stair-tower constructed at the north-eastern corner. The cathedral has three entrances - the southern, western and northern, of which the western was the main one intended for ceremonial processions. A gate standing at the entrance is known as the Sigtuna Gate (mid-12th century); according to legend, it was brought from the Swedish town of Sigtuna in 1187. The second name of the gate derives from the town of Magdeburg, where it was made. The two leaves are decorated with biblical and evangelical scenes in cast bronze relief. In the lower left corner there are portraits of the craftsmen who created this superb specimen of medieval Western European bronze-work. An inscription in Latin gives their names, Riquin and Weissmut. The small central figure - judging from an inscription in Slavonic - is a representation of the Russian master craftsman Avraam, who assembled the gate.
There is yet another bronze gate in the cathedral, called the Korsun Gate. Made in the 11th century in Chersonesos, Byzantium, it leads from the southern gallery into the Nativity Side-Chapel. Legend has it that the gate was handed over to Novgorod as a gift of Prince Yaroslav the Wise (c. 978 - 1054).
The interior of the cathedral is as majestic as its exterior. It is divided by huge piers into five aisles, three of which end in altar apses. In the south-western corner, inside the tower, there is a wide spiral in relatively small, modest buildings of the 12th - 16th centuries.