The Minnewater or the Lake of Love

The Minnewater, or the Lake of Love is the old port of medieval Bruges, where we find today swans instead of merchant ships navigating these waters. One of the first places to visit in Bruges and a source of numerous legends

HISTORY

The Minnewater, or the Lake of Love

The origin of the Lake of Love is not as romantic as its name would indicate. It rather emerged with the help of Nature and was adapted to the needs of Bruges.

In the 12th century, following the devastation caused by a storm, a new natural channel was created that connected Bruges with the sea. This allowed the city of Bruges to have an easier access to trade routes in the North Sea. The inhabitants of Bruges were able to see here an important source of income, from which the best example would be the production of lace that made the city so popular. Thus, this new channel called Zwyn was the gateway of imported wool, mainly from England, and a way outforthe famous Flemish cloth.

The large number of merchant ships coming to and leaving from Bruges forced the city authorities to adapt the banks of the channeland turn it into a port that functioned as such until the 16th century, when the sediments made it impossible to keep navigating the channel.

What does Minnewater mean? This is the Dutch name of the lake. The word consists of two Dutch words: minne, which means both "common" and "love" and water, which means "water". So the most correct translation would be "common" because these were “the common waters, waters of the community, the water of all" because it was here where the old port of Bruges was located, a place very much linked to the city and the daily life of its citizens.

LEGENDS OF THE LAKE OF LOVE OF BRUGES

There are many legends about the Minnewater, or the Lake of Love. The main ones are those that try to explain the origin of its name and the presence of swans on the canals of Bruges. They are further explained:

- Legend has it that in Bruges lived a young lady called Minna, who was in love with a humble man called Stromberg. Without her consent, the girl's father arranged a marriage between his daughter and Morneck, a young man from a higher social class, more appropriate for Minna. When she found out about her future marriage, Minna escaped from home. Young Stromberg went looking for her and he found her next day lying dead on the shores of the lake. He buried her on the bottom of the lake to keep their love in these waters forever.That is the reason why this lake is known as the Lake of Love.

- It is also said that before there was this lake here, there was a magical forest inhabited by spirits. Minne is an old Germanic word meaning "elf" or "goblin", which would be a different version of why the lake is named Minnewater.

Given the bucolic atmosphere of the medieval city of Bruges, the romantic version of the young lovers is usually told to tourists.

Why are there swans in the canals of Bruges? Legend has it that Maximilian I, Archduke of Austria and future Emperor of the Holy Roman Empire, took over the role of governor of Belgium after the death of his wife, Mary of Burgundy and Brabant, who ruled most of present-day Belgium and parts of Holland. She died after falling while she was riding a horse in Bruges. Maximilian I raised the city taxes, which at first did not generate muchdiscontent among the inhabitants of Bruges. But not satisfied with that, some years later, Maximilian raised the city taxes again. During his visit to Bruges, the demonstrations degenerated to the point that Maximilian himself was captured and imprisoned in the Craenenburg home in the Grand Place or Grote Markt in Bruges. PeiterLanchals, his faithful friend and city governor, was beheaded in the presence of Maximilian I in the Grote Markt.

When Maximilian regained power, he executed all the leaders of the riots and, as a punishment for the inhabitants of Bruges, he forced them to care for and keep well fed numerous swans, whobecame one of the protagonists of the canals of Bruges. He chose this animal because in Dutch, lanchals means "long neck", and a swan was represented in the coat of arms of the family of Pieter Lanchals. The inhabitants of Bruges would thus have to constantly remember every time they saw a swan the cruel murder they had committed. Not carrying out the order to keep them well fed would mean that Maximilian I himself would retaliate.

Discover more of the history of the Lake of Love or Minnewater with our Guided tour of Bruges.

LOCATION

Minnewater, 8000, Brugge.

HOW TO GET TO THE LAKE OF LOVE OF BRUGES

To go to the Lake of Love from the train station of Bruges you have to leave the station through the front door, in front of which we will see a large square. You have to cross the road that is behind it and also the canal, then turn right and take a paved road until you find the Poertoren Tower. This is the beginning of the Lake of Love.

SOME NEARBY PLACES

  • Poertoren Tower (5 m).
  • Minnewaterpark (20 m).
  • Beguinage of Bruges (130 m).
  • Bruges train station (450 m).
  • Church of Our Lady (800 m).
  • St. Salvator's Cathedral (950 m).
  • Grote Markt (1,4 km).