Painting/mapping the medieval landscape. A landscape-archaeological analysis of the medieval landscape around Bruges as depicted by Pieter Pourbus

Het geschilderde landschap in kaart. Een landschapsarcheologische analyse van de het middeleeuwse landschap rond Brugge, geschilderd door Pieter Pourbus
Start - End 
2017 - 2019 (ongoing)
Department of Archaeology
Department of History
Research Focus 



During the Middle Ages, the metropolis of Bruges thrived through its oversea trade. A large tidalinlet – called Zwin – provided a navigable passage from the North Sea, through the wetlands, toheart of the city. In the middle of the 16th century, the Eighty Years War (1568-1648) transformedthe Zwin area from an axis of trade into a frontline of war. Of course, this had a profound impacton the environment. At the start of this sudden landscape transformation, painter-cartographerPieter Pourbus portrayed the countryside of Bruges with a unique level of detail, accuracy andscale. Although this painted map is often used as an illustration, it has remained incomprehensiblyunderstudied. In general, studies of historical maps have mainly focussed on the iconography ofcity maps on the one hand, or on the geometric accuracy of relatively recent mapped landscapeson the other. Moreover, recent research has shown that the current landscape-historicalnarratives of this part of the North Sea area are severely outdated. In order to fill these gaps andstudy this unique landscape through this unique painting, we will merge newly developed digitaltechniques from art history and geography, and complement this with a renewed archaeologicaland historical survey of the region. By unlocking the details of the painted map, we will make aninvisible landscape reappear, and unveil the historical, archaeological and environmental recordsof this remarkable manmade landscape.