William Kentridge in the medieval Sint-Janshospitaal (Saint Johns hospital) Bruges

The 850 year old Saint Johns hospital is a great museum with beautiful works of our Flemish master Hans Memling as a real draw. Visitors can see a great body of work from world renowned artists and also visit a great piece of Belgium heritage holding beautiful medieval art.

The hospital was founded in the 12th century and is one of the oldest surviving hospital buildings. It was originally a place where sick pilgrims and travellers were taken care off. It later expanded with a monastery and a convent and in the 19th century the hospital had sixteen hospital wards around a Central building. In 1978 it loses its function as a hospital and houses now the Memling museum, the hospital museum and the pharmacy. Six important paintings of Hans Memling are on show of which St. Ursula shrine, the majestic St. John Altarpiece, the Dyptich of Maarten van Nieuwenhove and portrait of a woman are world famous. The works were at the time commissioned by the Saint Johns hospital and its cloister community.

William Kentridge, a South-African artist and ethnically Jewish, is best known for his prints, drawings, and animated films. Sickness and death are central themes in William Kentridge’s work and form a powerful present day addition to the medieval hospital surroundings. Incorporating the work of a contemporary artist has lifted the museum visit to a higher level and the museum should consider to take similar initiatives in the future. The charcoal black and white works contrast strongly with Memlings colourful paintings. One side of the ground hospital floor is taken up by William Kentridge’s work, while on the other side the regular exhibition can be visited. In the beautiful attic of the hospital with its beautiful wooden ceiling Kentridge installed his large video installation that takes up the whole room. The video ‘More sweetly Play the Dance’ revives the Dance of death, a popular genre in the Late Middle Ages in Bruges.

Do not miss the beautiful paintings by Memling and do not forget to take a closer look at the building itself. With your ticket you can also visit the hospital’s old pharmacy next door.

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