This article explores the relationship between ‘national identity’, the urban environment and its religious practices. As a gateway city, where locals met foreigners to an unusual degree, late medieval Bruges provides a useful case-study. The focus is on the processes that shaped expressions of identity. These often involved religious rhetoric and practices. Foreign merchants, such as the Biscayans and Castilians, were grouped into ‘nations’, and identified with their homelands, especially in their chapels; but why and how they did so was not the result simply of patriotism or a sense of otherness, but of urban and strategic agendas, their own and those of native citizens.