Body in medieval coffin found in Bruges identified as wealthy knight

The body in a lead coffin from the Middle Ages found in Bruges a year ago turns out to be that of a wealthy knight called Baudouin I, lord of Assebroek. The 14th-century coffin was found on the site where Eekhout Abbey once stood.

In June 2023, archaeologists made an extraordinary discovery during excavations at the site where Eekhout Abbey – the oldest abbey in Bruges – once stood. They explored the site before the start of the construction of the new BRUSK exhibition hall. Much to their surprise, they found a lead coffin from the 14th century in a medieval burial vault.

A lead coffin was usually only for the richest people. "It was very expensive at the time but allowed the body to be preserved for longer," said archaeologist Dieter Verwerft.

Next, the archaeologists investigated who was buried in the coffin. The skeleton was found to belong to a man aged between 25 and 40. Based on the location of the grave and the lead coffin, researchers assumed it was a powerful and wealthy person. From a coat of arms on the walls of the vault, it could be deduced that it was one of the lords of Assebroek, a powerful family with close ties to Eekhout Abbey.

Thanks to research by the C14 lab at the Royal Institute for Cultural Heritage in Brussels, archaeologists were finally able to figure out that the mystery man in the coffin was Baudouin I, lord of Assebroek.

"He was a knight who managed to accumulate enormous wealth. He controlled the river Reie and earned his money by, among other things, collecting tolls at one of Bruges' city gates," said the experts.

Further archaeological and historical studies around the discovery should offer additional insights into life in Bruges in the Middle Ages.


#FlandersNewsService | Annual Procession of the Holy Blood in Bruges © BELGA PHOTO IMAGEBROKER


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