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Furnes

FURNES (Flem. Veurne), an old-fashioned little town amid the dunes near the coast in West Flanders, Belgium, about 26 m. S.W. of Bruges. Pop. (1904) 6099. It is the centre of a considerable area extending to the French frontier, and its market is an important one for the disposal of corn, stock, hops and dairy produce. During the Norman raids Furnes was destroyed, and the present town was built by Baldwin Bras de Fer, first count of Flanders, about the year 870. At the height of the prosperity of the Flemish communes in the 14th century there were dependent on the barony of Furnes not fewer than fifty-two rich villages, but these have all disappeared, partly no doubt as the consequence of repeated French invasions down to the end of the 18th century, but chiefly through the encroachment of the sea followed by the accumulation of sand along the whole of this portion of the coast. Furnes contains many curious old houses and the church of St Walburga, which is a fine survival of the 13th century with some older portions. The old church and buildings, grouped round the Grand Place, which is the scene of the weekly market, present a quaint picture which is perhaps not to be equalled in the country. Near Furnes on the seashore is the fashionable bathing place called La Panne.

Furnes one day a year becomes a centre of attraction to all the people of Flanders. This is the last Sunday in July, when the fête of Calvary and the Crucifixion is celebrated. Of all popular festivities in Belgium this is the nearest approach to the old Passion Play. The whole story of Christ is told with great precision by means of succeeding groups which typify the different phases of the subject. The people of Furnes pose as Roman soldiers or Jewish priests, as the apostles or mere spectators, while the women put on long black veils so that they may figure in the procession as the just women.

Note - this article incorporates content from Encyclopaedia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, (1910-1911)

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