City and capital of West Flanders, 55 mi WNW of Brussels, NW Belgium. In the ninth century a.d. the first counts of Flanders built a castle here as a defense against Norman invaders, and by the 13th century the town was a leading member of the Hanseatic League. In the late Middle Ages Bruges became the banking, shipping, and commercial center of northern Europe until supplanted by Antwerp in the 16th century. It was occupied by the court of the dukes of Burgundy in the 15th century and was the center of the famous Flemish school of painting. It was held by Germany in both world wars. The city still retains its medieval plan, buildings, and canals.