Home to an impressive collection of Hans Memling paintings, the Oud Sint-Janshospitaal is one of the oldest surviving medieval hospitals in Europe. It was founded in the 12th century and remained in use until the early 20th century. Furniture, paintings, and hospital-related items are attractively displayed; the 13th-century middle ward, the oldest of three, was built in Romanesque style. Other fascinating 18th-century paintings show patients arriving by sedan chair and being fed and ministered to by sisters and clerics; some of the actual sedan chairs that were used are also on display. The highlights of the collection are the six major works (and plenty of minor ones) by Hans Memling (1440–94) that are of breathtaking quality and rank among the greatest—and certainly the most spiritual—of the Flemish Primitive school. Memling was born in Germany, but spent the greater part of his life in Brugge. In The Altarpiece of St. John the Baptist and St. John the Evangelist,
two leading personages of the Burgundian court are believed to be portrayed: Mary of Burgundy (buried in the Onze-Lieve-Vrouwekerk) as St. Catherine, and Margaret of York as St. Barbara. The "paintings within the painting" give details of the lives of the two saints. The miniature paintings that adorn the St. Ursula Shrine are likewise marvels of detail and poignancy; Memling's work gives recognizable iconographic details about cities, such as Brugge, Cologne, Basel, and Rome. There is a short guide to the museum in English, and the audio guide is in English, too.