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392: Heilig Bloedbasiliek, Bruges, Belgium
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Heilig Bloedbasiliek, Bruges, Belgium
Mystery Worshipper: Leo.
The church: Heilig Bloedbasiliek (The Church of the Holy Blood), Bruges, Belgium.
Denomination: Roman Catholic.
The building: The church dates from between the 12th and 16th centuries. We were in the simple lower chapel which contrasts with the ornate upper chapel above. It was built to contain a relic claiming to contain some drops of the blood of Christ. Coagulated, in a rock-crystal phial, it is taken in procession through the streets of Bruges every Ascension Day.
The neighbourhood: The church is part of a well-kept medieval square which also contains the town hall.
The cast: I do not know who the two celebrants were.
What was the name of the service?
Heilege Mis. It was a mid-morning mass on a Monday commemmorating St Pontian, pope and martyr, and St Hippolytus, priest and martyr.

How full was the building?
I counted 42 people – the chapel was about two-thirds full.

Did anyone welcome you personally?
No. There were many tourists coming and going.

Was your pew comfortable?
Yes, a pew with plenty of leg-room.

How would you describe the pre-service atmosphere?
Despite the tourists, it was one of quiet recollection.

What were the exact opening words of the service?
"In de nam van de Vader en de Zoon en de Heilege Geest, Amen." The service was in Flemish.

What books did the congregation use during the service?

What musical instruments were played?
None. This was a said mass.

Did anything distract you?
In an attempt to stop tourists disturbing us, one man locked the door and I wondered what health and safety regulations they have in Belgium.

Was the worship stiff-upper-lip, happy clappy, or what?
Calm and reverent.

Heilig Bloedbasiliek, Bruges, Belgium

Exactly how long was the sermon?
There was none.

Which part of the service was like being in heaven?
Everyone joined in the end of the eucharistic prayer. I am fairly sure laity aren't supposed to, and I expect the custom began because concelebrants join in this bit and others mistakenly added their voices. It's a delightful example of the way liturgy evolves, in this case to celebrate the priesthood of all believers (or "royal priesthood", in Vatican II terminology).

And which part was like being in... er... the other place?
Maybe not being able to join in anything because I do not understand Flemish – although I know the structure of the mass well enough to know exactly what was going on.

What happened when you hung around after the service looking lost?
Nothing. The tourists started coming in again and I left quickly before a loud, American tourguide started an earnest lecture which would have ruffled my sense of calm.

How would you describe the after-service coffee?
There was none.

How would you feel about making this church your regular (where 10 = ecstatic, 0 = terminal)?
5 – It is a haven of peace in what has become a medieval theme park for tourists.

Did the service make you feel glad to be a Christian?

What one thing will you remember about all this in seven days' time?
The locked doors, musing that the apostles' fear did not stop the risen Christ appearing in their midst.

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