The central cemetery in Bruges, which is also referred to by some as the “Cemetery of the Skull,” has many fantastic, moss-covered grave sites but none as notable as the final resting place of Bruges wine and textile merchant Antoine Michel Wemaer.
Wemaer lived from 1763-1837. His tomb is adorned with the figure of a skull and cross bones on a tasseled pillow. The burial site also contains the remains of his wife, Marie-Alide Heene as well as two of their children whose deaths preceded his own in 1837. The pillar behind the mossy stone skull is engraved with the tomb’s inhabitants and a blessing in French.
References can be found claiming Wemaer changed his profession from merchant to pirate, no doubt because of the skull and crossbones, but these sources are all personal social media accounts and are not corroborated by any credible historical source. And this skeletal symbolism can be seen throughout Europe to signify mortality and death. Neither the pillow under the skeletal statuary, the presence of his family, nor the blessing point to the life of a high seas criminal.
Nonetheless, the grave marker of Antoine Michel Wemaer and his family is very popular and well documented with or without the pirate fable. And for good reason, despite whatever direction his life may have gone his tomb is an amazing sight and very worth a visit.
Know Before You Go
Central Cemetery Bruges-Assebroek is located just south of the Bruges ring road. Enter the cemetary from the main north west entrance along Kerkhofblommenstraat and proceed down the main path towards the statue at the first intersection. The grave site is on the right a dozen or so graves up from the intersection in section 3 or 5, one tier back.