Every year on the morning of August 15th, the feast of the Assumption of Mary, the procession ‘The Promise of Bruges’ (Brugse Belofte) also known as the ‘Procession of the Blind’ (Blindekensprocessie), goes out in the streets of Bruges. The procession honours the promise the soldiers or their wives made during the battle at the Pevelenberg (Mons-en-Pévèle in France) in 1304, where the warriors of Bruges faced the army of the King of France. They promised that if they made it back home safe, they would bring a candle of 36 pounds to Our Lady of the Pottery, and that every year on August 15th. Every year a small procession honours that promise. The procession runs from the West to the East of Bruges, from the Chapel of the Blind (Blindekens), attached to the almshouse of the Blind, to the chapel of the Pottery (Potterie), where ever since medieval times the statue of Our Lady of the Pottery attracted numerous pilgrims. The battle was just one of many battles at the end of the 13th and beginning of the 14th century, where the people of Flanders fought for freedom and equality.
In the procession a small marching band is followed by the announcer, and the men of the brotherhood or fraternity of the Blind, carrying their banner. Then follows the flag with the lion of Flanders, and the members of the Royal guild of the crossbow archers of Saint George who fought along in the battle of the Pevelenberg. The Flemish soldiers were able to loot a bolt thrower from the French pulled by two horses. Two horsemen carry the flag of Bruges and Flanders, followed by a standard with the Marial M that precedes the women who carry the miraculous statue of Our Lady of the Blind (OLV van Blindekens), a statue that is still venerated today. The statue is followed by the women who made the promise together with lay women, guild women, widows, noble women and their children all in honour of Our Lady. Onder a canopy the countess of Flanders Filippa van Milly is accompanied by her court ladies.
Then follows the central group of the procession, the 12 virgin girls dressed in Marial colours carrying the candle of 36 pounds decorated with flowers and white ribbons. Before them three altar boys, behind them the priests and representatives of the city council, after which everyone can join in the procession in prayer.
The procession is concluded by a float of a monumental ship, in remembrance of a miracle attributed to Our Lady of the Blind. In 1588 a ship moored in Bruges filled with grain for the famished citizens of Bruges. The soldiers accompanying the float carry the ‘goedendag’ a weapon the Flemish soldiers carried during the battles, a combination of a club and a spear. It had shown its purpose in the battle of the Golden Spurs, the famous battle between the army of the French king and the Flemish craftsmen in 1302.
In the chapel of Our Lady of the Pottery, the candle is lit in front of the statue of Our Lady, while the church goers sing the Ave Maria. After the service the procession returns to the chapel of Our Lady of the Blind.
This procession, although a lot smaller and relatively unknown, deserves its place next to the procession of the Holy Blood on Assumption Day in May. Under the beautiful sunny sky of Bruges this authentic procession with a lot of ceremonial splendour, warmed the hearts of everyone watching it.