After traveling in a plane more than one third of the way around our planet, forcing our way through three movies, nine time zones, two meals, three glasses of wine and two magazine articles, we arrived in Amsterdam. After a car trip of about three hours we came to rest in Bruges and beheld The Last Judgment of Hieronymous Bosch. It is a triptych with the left panel showing “heavenly“ activities (a naked man carrying a tree, a naked man climbing toward a ruby-red fruit, etc.), a central panel depicting the Judgment with Christ above and a goodly number of demons below, and on the right panel we see sinners carted off to the burning cities of Hell while an ill-prepared army of amphibians assaults the walls. The outside panels are in poor condition—painted in grisaille they show the Crowning with Thorns- one can only imagine the effect on a rustic population to have the full color image of the triptych revealed on a Sunday.
We saw many other wonders in Bruges but certainly among the most memorable was a glass phial containing the blood of Christ at the Basilica of the Holy Blood (Basiliek van het Heilig Bloed). We paid (sorry, donated) our Euro and had a good look at a glass cylinder about 1.5 inches in diameter with ornate golden caps was encased in another glass cylinder about 3” in diameter. It looked like coffee grounds or desiccated liver inside the tube, with a distinct reddish coloration on part of it. To end up with a cup of dried blood meal one would need to start with at least a quart of liquid and yet there is not one mention in the Bible nor in any of the many, many pictures we saw of Christ’s suffering (and we saw lots of images of Christ’s blood) was there ever a picture of anyone collecting blood. The Basilica offered no explanation of how it came to have possession of the blood. Of course with God, all things are possible.
In terms of Bosch the glass phial is actually very interesting. He portrays numerous images of glassware (think of the glass spheres in Garden of Earhtly Delights)—I presume much of it based on alchemical set-ups—but in his Adoration of the Magi, the curious, naked figure in the stable door way has a glass cylinder (with gold ends!) around a sore on his ankle. Coincidence? I leave you to draw your own conclusions.
Adoration of the Magi (detail) by Hieronymous Bosch (1495, oil on wood panel, Prado Museum, Madrid, Spain)
B+B member Colin Batty found this image of angels collecting Christ's blood. The Large Passion: The Crucifixion by Albrecht Dürer (~1498, woodcut, Victoria and Albert Museum, London, UK)