Hidden Belgium: The oldest cemetery in Belgium

Hidden Belgium: The oldest cemetery in Belgium

The oldest cemetery in Belgium lies just outside Bruges. It’s a mysterious, romantic graveyard filled with crumbling stone tombs of eminent locals like poet Guido Gezelle and sculptor Henri Pickery.

There is also a weird tomb with a carved skull resting on a pillow. It belongs to Antoine Michel Wernaer. The gravediggers call him Pirate Piet because of the skull and crossbones, although he was actually a merchant. The skull is half buried in ivy to add to the horror.

A quiet corner of the burial ground is filled with graves of foreigners who died in Bruges. They include the English writer Frances Trollope’s husband Thomas and two of their children. The family had fled to Bruges in 1834 after Fanny’s husband Thomas ran up huge debts. They moved into a villa outside Bruges where Fanny turned to writing to support the family. While living there, Thomas died of consumption, along with their children Henry and Emily.

Another son, Anthony Trollope, stayed on in Belgium to teach at a school in Brussels. He later returned to England, where he became one of the great English writers of the 19th century.

Derek Blyth’s hidden secret of the day: Derek Blyth is the author of the bestselling “The 500 Hidden Secrets of Belgium”. He picks out one of his favourite hidden secrets for The Brussels Times every day.


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