The Matins of Bruges (Dutch: Brugse Metten) was the nocturnal massacre of the French garrison in Bruges and their Leliaards [nl] supporters, a political faction in favour of French rule, on 18 May 1302 by the members of the local Flemish militia. It has been named "Matins" (after a monastic liturgy) in analogy to the Sicilian Vespers of 1282.[1] The revolt led to the Battle of the Golden Spurs, which saw the Flemish militia defeat French troops on 11 July 1302.

Contemporary depiction of the Bruges Matins on the Oxford Chest.



Towns in Flanders had held the exclusive rights for the importation of sheep's wool from England.[2] This made the merchants that comprised the bourgeosie very rich and powerful, so much so that they were able to force Margaret II, the Countess of Flanders, to allow them to become autonomous communities.[3] This put the commoners in direct conflict with the nobles in the cities. When Margaret abdicated in 1278 to her son Guy of Dampierre, the nobles sought an alliance with the French king Philip the Fair (Flanders being a vassal to France at the time). Guy, like his mother, favoured more local control of the territory and chafed at this, but the king saw an opportunity to bring a troublesome county to heel. In 1287 the alliance was complete.[4] This led to the Franco-Flemish War in 1297, during which time royal troops took over the city, a highly unpopular action that caused widespread fear and anger among the Flemish in Bruges.[5] Guy surrendered to Philip in 1300, and Jacques de Châtillon was appointed governor.[1]



The tipping point was a visit by King Philip and Queen Joan to Bruges. The Leliaards hosted extravagant fêtes for the pair, and to defray the costs, they raised taxes on the merchant class. This was met by outrage, as the supporters of Guy, known as Clauwerts, were indignant at having to pay for the celebrations of the victors.[1] Jacques de Châtillon brought an army of 2,000 knights to maintain order in Bruges. Rumours quickly spread that the leaders of the Clauwerts as well as their families would all be executed.[6]

On the evening of 17 May 1302, Châtillon held a feast for his troops. Taking advantage of the fact that the knights would be tired after partying all night, at dawn the next morning,[7] armed insurrectionists led by Pieter de Coninck and Jan Breydel entered the houses where the French were garrisoned and massacred them in their sleep using their "goedendag",[8] a sharp pike they stuck into the victims' throats. According to tradition, to distinguish the French from the natives, they asked suspects to repeat the shibboleth: "schild en vriend", which means "shield and friend", a phrase difficult to pronounce for a French speaker.[9] Another version suggests the alternative "des gilden vriend", "friend of the guilds".[citation needed] Only Châtillon, who escaped disguised as a priest after he failed to rally the garrison, and a handful of the French managed to escape with their lives. Approximately 2,000 people are estimated to have died.[10]

After the Bruges Matins, Jan Breydel and Pieter de Coninck were celebrated as the leaders of the insurrection. Their statue, which was an initiative of Julius Sabbe, has decorated the market in Bruges since 1887.[11]



Châtillon made his way to Paris to bring the news of the massacre to Philip, who vowed revenge, and sent an army of about 8,500 men to conquer the city.[12][13] Meanwhile, Guy's sons John and Guy of Namur, as well as his grandson William of Jülich, raised their own army to meet the French, and the two forces clashed in the Battle of the Golden Spurs on 11 July 1302, which resulted in an unexpected victory for the Flemish.[1]

See also





  1. ^ a b c d Pirenne 2004, p. 75.
  2. ^ Pirenne 2004, pp. 52–53.
  3. ^ Lottin 1989, p. 106.
  4. ^ Pirenne 2004, p. 74.
  5. ^ Omond 1908, p. 40.
  6. ^ Omond 1908, pp. 42–43.
  7. ^ Omond 1908, pp. 43–44.
  8. ^ Pirenne 2004, pp. 76, 127.
  9. ^ Omond 1908, pp. 44–45.
  10. ^ Omond 1908, pp. 45–46.
  11. ^ Weymeis, Chris (2 March 2016). "Brugse standbeeld Jan Breydel en Pieter de Coninck kleurt Gents" (in Dutch).
  12. ^ Omond 1908, p. 46.
  13. ^ Tucker 2010, p. 294.

General and cited references