Damme's absolute must-see is the robust Church of Our Lady with its characteristic flat tower. From April to September, you can climb the 206 steps to enjoy a wonderful panorama. There is a phenomenal view of the 17th-century city walls, the Damme Canal and the extensive polder landscape.
Spire on the tower
The Church of Our Lady was built in 1225. During the 13th century, it was further developed in the Scheldt gothic style, which is Romanesque with gothic elements. Later, the church was further embellisched. In the 14th century, the study tower was finished with a spire. The golden age of Damme was reflected in the scale of the church which gradually began to take on the air of a cathedral. Still, the decline had already begun before the last expansion works were completed.
In 1578, Damme was conquered and plundered by the Geuzen. The church was later restored, but failed to overcome the ordeal. The population declined rapidly, particularly when Damme also became garrison town of the Spaniards. The expenses for the big church were too heavy for the community. Part of the monumental church was demolished, as well as the spire. Now the remaining separation walls between the heads and aisles give an idea of the size of the original church.
Be sure to take a look inside the Church of Our Lady. The interior looks impressive. Above the nave pillars, ou see wooden apostle statues from the 13th century. They survived the religious violence of the 16th century. Also note the miracle cross above the altar. According to the legend, fishermen from Damme fished the cross from the sea. It is now carried every year during the Procession of the Holy Blood in Bruges. Furthermore, the church houses valuable baroque altars and a confessional from the 17th century. You will also find some very old gravestones. The famous poet Jacob van Maerlant is buried here. His original tombstone disappeared in the 18th century. Now all that is left is a memorial plaque.
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