There are three loves in the life of Joris Borluut, the town carillonneur of Bruges. He marries the fiery Barbe, whose dark beauty is a reminder of Belgium's Spanish heritage. Repelled by her harshness and violence, he starts an affair with her sister, the gentle, soulful, fair-haired Godelieve. When her sister discovers their affair, Godelieve enters a Beguine convent and Joris devotes himself to his first love, the old city of Bruges. His opposition to a proposal to sacrifice part of the old town to economic advance loses him his position as town architect, and he withdraws to the belfry and his beloved carillon that, for him, expresses the soul of Bruges.