Huidenvettersplein (Tanner's Square) was used by the leather trade until the 15th century, when the bad smell forced a move away from the center. One of the oldest squares in Bruges, it has a series of plaques showing the trades carried on in the former shops, including this one of milking cows above what was a dairy.
Bruges – Fact Check

Bruges: powered by the pious and the wealthy

Photo by Jurjen Drenth

Bruges – Fact Check Bruges: powered by the pious and the wealthy

The tension between commerce and piety is a defining part of Bruges's history.

Kieran Meeke
Kieran Meeke Travel Writer

Bruges has long been a pilgrimage city – its striking, Gothic religious art an exhortation to focus on celestial matters. But many of the greatest religious artworks of the day were funded by wealthy donors, most of whom made their money in the town's various trades.

Huidenvettersplein – in English, Tanners' Square – is a reminder that Bruges' wealth arose from waves of trade and craft. The square was the traditional workplace of leather-makers, until the smell aroused complaints and the tanners' workshops were moved out of the city center.

Today, the compact square features many monuments to Bruges' past in industry:  the plaques harken back to various professions, including the dairy trade (depicted here), while a different kind of commerce occupies the city's centre: Huidenvettersplein is known for its art and antique markets.

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