Bruges Matins (history)

Bruges Matins (history)

The Bruges Matins or Brugse Metten was the nocturnal massacre of the French garrison in Bruges by the members of the local Flemish militia on 18 May, 1302. The title of the massacre was an analogy to the Sicilian Vespers. The massacre has been compared to St. Bartholomew's Day massacre. This revolt led to the Battle of the Golden Spurs, which saw the Flemish militia defeat French troops on 11 July 1302.

Bruges had had the exclusive rights for the importation of sheep's wool from England. This trade was in the hands of the bourgeois but when Edward I began to deal directly with the customers, the traders lost their advantage. They and their political agents, the aldermen, called upon their liege, Philip the Fair, to maintain their dominant monopolistic position. To do so, he garrisoned French troops in the town.

During the night of 18 May, 1302, armed insurrectionists with Pieter de Coninck and Jan Breydel at their head entered the houses where the French were garrisoned. According to tradition, to distinguish the French from the natives, they asked suspects to repeat the shibboleth: "schild en vriend" which means "shield and friend" a sentence difficult to pronounce for a French speaker. Another version suggests the alternative "des gildens vriend", "friend of the guilds". Only the governor, Jacques de Châtillon, and a handful of the French managed to escape with their lives.

After the Bruges, Matins Jan Breydel and Pieter de Coninck were celebrated as the leaders of the insurrection. Their statue, which was an initiative of Julius Sabbe, has decorated the market in Bruges since 1887.


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