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Hans Memling knew perfectly well that people would come from far and wide to be in the presence of Ursula’s reliquary. This shrine was a big tourist attraction, drawing people to Bruges. So he made it an advert for what the city had to offer. It was saying: ‘Come on a pilgrimage, say your prayers, let’s hope that your husband recovers from his illness. And before you leave, why don’t you do a bit of shopping?’ In the art of Flanders – especially the Renaissance art, which I love – there’s this wonderful collision between spirituality and materialism. They want their art to be deeply spiritual, absolutely, but it’s also a way of stocking the world with riches.

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The article ‘A cultural tour of Bruges’ was published in partnership with Lonely Planet Traveller.

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