Ons’ Lieve Heer op Solder

Ons' lieve heer op solder altar

Ons’ Lieve Heer op Solder is a special and well hidden treasure in the oldest part of Amsterdam. Ever seen a church in the attic of a canalhouse? For that unique experience, this museum should be on your wish list!

canal house ons' lieve heer op solder

Museum Ons’ Lieve Heer op Solder (Our Lord in the Attic) surprises the visitor who starts his tour in a ‘normal’ canal house and suddenly arrives in a church that can host quite a few visitors. You don’t feel that coming and that was exactly the point for this catholic church. In 17th century, the Dutch Golden Age, the religious war between roman-catholics and protestants was won by protestants in Amsterdam. Catholicism was officially banned but in the meantime, many catholics could still go to hidden churches all over the city – as long as they wouldn’t be visible, they would not be bothered.

At that time, accepting in silence that people would not give up their faith and letting them to worship according to their own rules and wishes was seen as a strong sign of tolerance. Thus Ons’ Lieve Heer op Solder is a museum that shows the roots of tolerance in an intolerant world, a characteristic that was very strong in 17th century Amsterdam that also opened the door for many Jews.

Your visit to Ons’ Lieve Heer op Solder starts in the canalhouse, with rooms like the kitchen here on the right, with stairs leading up and down in the narrowness that is usual in canalhouses in Amsterdam. I loved the stairs maybe even more than the rooms. Pottery is shown that was found in a cesspool, as well as the bedroom of the canalhouse owner.

There is also a room with 18th or 19th century classical design to give you an idea how people lived there at the time. I particularly liked the painted ceiling that you can see at the photograph. After this look into canalhouse-life, you can climb another staircase and boff, there you are, in a church that is not at all visible from the outside.

ons lieve heer op solder organ

The colour surprised me. The guard at the entrance knew all about Ons’ Lieve Heer op Solder and answered many questions, also the one on the pink paint in the museum. The church is in it’s original, 19th century state, a Victorian period where this colour was popular. Moreover there are many details and artefacts that are older, like the painting of Jacob de Wit at the altar (first half 18th century) and the organ (1794)

As you can see in the picture, the church has several floors and you can walk downstairs or go to the first floor. The church was founded by a rich German merchant, Jan Hartman in 1663.

peter parmentier priester ons' lieve heer op solder

Next to the church is the room where the priest lived: Peter Parmentier. He dedicated already decades of his life to the conversion of Amsterdam so probably it was logical that he got the job…
While making your tour through the canal house, do not forget to look out of the windows – the view on the canal is beautiful, and at one point also the tower of the Old Church can be spotted!

Ons’ Lieve Heer op Solder is living difficult times (summer 2020) as it seems to loose it’s financial support from the government. I am sure a solution will be found as this is among the oldest museums of Amsterdam and a more than unique reflection of the religiously diverse history of Amsterdam. However, you can contribute yourself by paying a visit to Ons’ Lieve Heer op Solder and/or fund them with your donation. Warmly recommended!

Other places to visit in Amsterdam:
Hermitage Amsterdam
Anne Frank Huis
Adam Tower

Another very interesting museum about the 17th century, the Dutch Golden Age:
Westfries Museum Hoorn

Musée d’Angoulême: beautiful!

Celtic helmet, 4th century BC, bronze, gold, silver, coral, spectacular finding 1981 Cave of Perrats (Agris)

Musée d’Angoulême has a fine collection worth visiting, with the golden Celtic helmet as a unique masterpiece. It is a mixture of archaeology, ethnography and fine arts, presented with care and good guidance.

musée d'angoulême entrance next to cathedral saint pierre

Looking for the archaeological museum of Angoulême, find the Musée d’Angoulême on the backside of the cathedral Saint Pierre. I had some struggle finding it. There are few signs indicating where the museum is. Once arrived, you go through a beautiful entrance. The 12th century roman tower of the cathedral looks down upon the visitors in all its magnificence.

musée d'angoulême bronze age presentation

Entrance is only 5 euro (in 2020) and I was told the ticket gives me a 50% reduction for the Paper Museum that I never heard of. Angoulême still has some work to do to attract interested visitors… This also goes for the language: everything is in French only. The information given is great, thorough and lively – if you speak the language. See the image here on the right about objects found in this region deriving from the Bronze Age.

musée d'angoulême prehistorical animal

The archaeological collection is on the ground floor. The website gave the warning that most of the older archaeological findings of this region are in other museums but I must say the Musée d’Angoulême presents very well what they do have. Even prehistorical items took my immediate attention. Prehistory is a period that I usually skip because I prefer the period from 10.000BC until the Romans, but not in Musée d’Angoulême.

musée d'angoulême wall with rests of dynasaure

The rock that the Musée d’Angoulême placed against the wall to show the findings of a dinosaure skeleton is very special! Moreover, the findings of the Neanderthaler and Cromagnon Humans are local: it is here that they lived. That, in combination with an excellent presentation, makes it special.

musée d'angoulême vitrin and wall prehistory

I liked a movie about the dolmen, telling that originally there was much more to the structure than just the big rocks that are left over. As the dolmen are older that the pyramids in Egypt, the Musée d’Angoulême calls them the ‘oldest architectural structure in the world’. But that is incorrect: the – presumed – temples of Göbekli Tepe are much older. Nevertheless it was new for me that dolmen were at the center of bigger constructions. The movie gives great images of what they must have looked like.

There are many nice objects, I show 3 of them here that I particularly liked:

heads of jarnac musée d'angoulême
  1. The Heads of Jarnac, images meant to keep ancestors close. The faces have their own individuality. West-Celtic (Gaule de l’Ouest) dating 1st or 2nd Century BC.

bronze age bowl musée d'angoulême

2. One of those ‘simple’ but very beautiful pieces to be found in Bronze Age collections. The fine art work on top would seduce me to buy it, if available in shops today…

chess and trictrac pieces from the Xth century, musée d'angoulême

3. Chess came to Western Europe from India via the Arab world in the 10th century. These are among the oldest pieces ever found. Trictrac was also a known game. Both were played with dice at the time.

On the first floor, a large collection of ethnography can be visited, mostly from Oceania, the Maghreb and some African countries. No opinion on that from my side. I paid a visit to the second floor for the ‘fine arts’ of the Musée d’Angoulême. It appears to be a mixture of art objects like porcelain and many paintings, some valuable, some not worth to be put into a museum. 3 paintings took my attention:

rosa bonheur jeune taureau sautant la barrière painting

Jeune taureau sautant la barrière, by Rosa Bonheur (19th century). Rosa Bonheur lived in a time where women were not allowed to go to art schools, however she found a way to learn how to paint. She made a great reputation with paintings of horses and cows. To go to animal markets and slaughter houses, she dressed up like a man to have access – just like the contemporary female writer George Sand was doing to be accepted. Rosa Bonheur was the first woman to be decorated with the great cross of the Legion d’Honneur.

van der helst painting of young gentleman and woman

Amid the many paintings of very different value, suddenly a real 17th century Van Der Helst painting. It is called ‘Portrait of a young Dutch gentleman and his wife‘ , not sure if this was the description or the real title. Anyway a surprising work of art in the collection.

And last but ot least, an intriguing piece of work by Pierre Auguste Vafflard, made in 1804: Young et sa fille. This is an incredible story about the English poet Edward Young who went to France with his daughter while she was ill, in the hope to get her cured. Helas, she dies at the age of 18 in Lyon. Being protestant in a catholic country, he is only allowed to bury here at night in the graveyard of the Swiss colony – and he has to do it himself. So here is the painting where he carries his deceased daughter to her grave at night. A true masterpiece – with apologies for the imperfect photograph.

edward young burrying his daughter at night, painting by Pierre Auguste Vafflard

Other places to visit in this region:
Vesunna Museum Périgueux
Museum of Art and Archaeology of the Périgord
Aubeterre Underground Church

Un Divan à Tunis – being human

Un Divan à Tunis is a great movie that combines fun with food for thought. Selma moves from Paris to Tunis where she was born because Paris has many psychologists and Tunis has none. She wants to be meaningful in her job and Tunisians need her. But… issues occur from unexpected angles…

Tunisia won my heart after I went there to give diversity trainings in several companies. The Dutch are called ‘direct’ in their communication style but hey, nothing beats the Tunisians in their directness. Un Divan à Tunis is certainly no exception to that: on the level of society, there is secretive behaviour but not in the interpersonal contacts. Relations develop in an unexpected way, as well as the plot. This movie is a joy to watch, you won’t be bored!

Selma is a psychoanalist who decides to start a practice in Tunis. In Paris, people can find psychological help at every corner of the street but in Tunis, it is new. Family members think she is crazy to want this, and they think her customers might be crazy too – so they do not want her to have the divan at the rooftop of their house but Selma insists and becomes successful at a short notice. However, life is not that easy for her.

Un Divan à Tunis shows step by step the complexity of Tunisian society. How the Jews are a common ennemy, even though some know nothing about Jews at all. How homosexuality and transgenderism are oppressed at the level of society – and might be accepted at individual level. How a man and a woman cannot be in the same room because it is against morals. Nevertheless Un Divan à Tunis shows several moments where this rule is broken, not because of sexuality but, very interesting, because they help each other, because they want to interact, listen, communicate, show empathy. Being human in this movie is stronger than all the societal rules.

This strong wish to be human, whatever societal problems occur, is what I remember from my visits to Tunisia. It can also be found is this great documentary Danny in Arabistan – Tunisia (in Dutch). I highly recommend Un Divan à Tunis, because it is a funny movie that gives good food for thought while you laugh.

Les Leҫons du Pouvoir, Lessons of Power

Les Leҫons du Pouvoir

Les Leҫons du Pouvoir, the Lessons of Power is an extensive book by Franҫois Hollande, French President 2012-2017. Books by politicians in high positions are always promising as they reveal the work done behind the curtains of media spotlights. The 500 pages of Les Leҫons du Pouvoir are only partly filled with interesting facts and events. Much of it is a description of his views, his convictions. However, there are very interesting sections that make it worth reading.

Les Leҫons du Pouvoir give the impression of a President who sees himself as a unique statesman in the first place. At some moments you think, my goodness, the ego! Then at other moments Franҫois Hollande surprises by his devotion to France, his willingness to serve, his claims of integrity and deep rooted values of liberté, égalité and fraternité. He is clearly a person who was in public positions all his life with large experience and well-founded visions.
Nevertheless his reflections hardly inspired me, maybe because of the over-abundant language he uses. Or it might be his style that is rather defensive: mentioning the arguments of his opponents to put his own arguments forward, stating how his economic measures really brought his country forward. Big events like the attacks of Charlie Hebdo, the Bataclan, Nice are described but on no occasion was I as a reader ‘into’ the subject – of course not every secret can be revealed in dealing with security but he could have said more that he does. The same goes for the international visits he made, or the negociations leading to the Paris climate agreement. Les Leҫons du Pouvoir concentrates on economy, the labour market, pensions and many other internal politics, although this presidency occurred in a period and country that moved many people worldwide.

A difficulty for a non-French reader is that Les Leҫons du Pouvoir never explains the French political system or institutes, nor the abbreviations used; also names of politicians are assumed to be familiar. This book is clearly not written for the international scene although its writer underlines on several occasions that France is a major player in the international community. Franҫois Hollande focuses on the international powers that he sees as relevant to the greatness and influence of France: Germany, the USA, China, Russia. A country like the Netherlands plays no role in his memoirs.

Les Leҫons du Pouvoir

Some of the interesting sections I particularly liked:

  • His admiration of the courage of the police officer who entered the supermarket where people were taken hostage by terrorists: ‘ses chances de survie étaient bien faibles. Il n’a pas hésité une seconde’.
  • His thoughts about trust as key to the state – a lack of trust can make democracies stagger
  • The moment Barack Obama, Mario Monti and Franҫois Hollande try to grill Angela Merkel about euro politics; they want her to accept ‘growth over cuts’. She holds strong and follows her own road.
  • His descriptions of several occasions that he wants to do or show something which is interpreted differently afterwards. For example he pays a visit to a château that has been available for all presidents’ holidays, and he walks with his partner to the beach as he wishes to have a ‘présidence normale’ but he is highly criticized – what he wants to do and express is not how the media and/or the public view it. It shows the complexity of power in relation to how it is perceived.
  • The endless European gatherings; 28 people all get 5 minutes to talk in the first round which is already long, however when the Portuguese prime minister takes half an hour, he is not interrupted by the chair… He considers that it is the longlasting European peace that causes the boredom: ‘à moins que ce ne soit l‘ennui lui-même qui garantisse  la paix’. One of those observations that form the pearls in this book!
  • How the debate about taking away the nationality of terrorists became impossible because it remembered the French to WWII and the Vichy regime that took away the French nationality from Jews and resistance fighters – the proposal is withdrawn.
  • The story of one of his ministers (‘l’affaire Cahuzac’) who is very convincing when lying to Franҫois Hollande with open eyes about his innocence, full of indignation. That is an incredible story and shows how difficult his job has been.
  • His relation to Emmanuel Macron, how it started, how it grew, and how it developed with Emmanuel Macron running for president, leaving Franҫois Hollande many steps behind in the political game.
  • The selection of the members of his government and the different fights they have, although the insights he gives do not explain all events concerned.

This book is about lessons learned about power, so I like to finish with 4 lessons:
1. Choose your battles – ‘à vouloir intervenir sur tout, on ne pèse sur rien’ (p. 70)
2. What counts is not the time spent to come to a decision but the traces the decision leaves in the long run (p.70)
3. Do not assume that your personal qualities like sympathy and understanding weigh more in diplomacy than the actual power relations (p.102)
4. Talking is not communicating. Don’t be too present in the media, don’t react to too many questions as people will not see or hear you any more (p.229)

You may also like these blogs:
Simone Veil, Une Vie
Robert Badenter, Idiss

Idiss – by Robert Badinter

Idiss

Idiss was the grandmother of the French well-known politician Robert Badinter. He wrote this book in her honour. It offers both a moving family history and perspectives of jewish and non-jewish Europe. Idiss is an interesting and moving book.

Idiss is the story of a turbulent life that started and ended amidst crises of antisemitism. Badinter’s grandmother was born in 1863 and raised in Bessarabie, Yiddishland: a region ruled by Ottomans, Russians, Roumanians and Soviets, nowadays part of Moldava. Her community were Ashkenazic Jews, most of them living in poor circumstances. Idiss married her great love, Schulim.

The atmosphere in Bessarabie is threatening towards Jews, discriminating against them in many acts. In 1903 a terrible pogrom takes place, killing 50, wounding 100s, looting and destroying shops and houses. The two sons of Idiss and Schulim leave for Paris, to start a new life. They are quite successful and in 1912, Idiss, Schulim and daughter Chifra – Badinter’s mother – follow their track. Imagine what that journey meant for Idiss who never left her village before.

Robert Badinter shows how France was seen as a paradise through the eyes of the inhabitants of Bessarabie. Yes, there was the antisemitic affaire Dreyfus but Dreyfus was nevertheless protected by the law and the values of the République Française (‘laïque’) and famous French people stood up for him. So from the perspective of the Yids in Bessarabie the proverb ‘living like a Jew in France’ remained attractive.

Badinter describes the situation of Jews in France in the first half of the XX century as a place where they were considered as French in the first place: being Jewish was their religion: “citoyens français de confession israélite” (p.39). Simone Veil in her biography gives a similar vision. It is interesting to read how French society dealt with the Jewish citizens, rich like Rothschild and Citroën and poor like Idiss and Schulim.

Badinter gives more nuanced insights later in the book (p. 61-64) explaining how Jews were envied or despised by the French, suspected for plots to dominate the world and not considered as ‘real’ French: “Pour eux, les juifs avaient beau donner tous les gages du patriotisme, ils n’en demeuraient pas moins d’étrangers sur la terre de France, plus hospitalière dans ses lois que dans les coeurs” (p.62-63).

He tells that the Jewish community was not homogeneous like antisemitic pamphlets suggested and that there was some kind of zionist movement but that most “Israélites français” considered it more of a fantasy than a real dream, saying: “Un sioniste est un juif qui paye un autre juif pour envoyer un troisième juif en Palestine” (p.63).

Idiss

I cannot simply resume this book as it has several layers. The language used is beautiful and suits the life of Idiss that was pure and loving. Many happy years are described, a great pleasure to read. The different developments in the family are very interesting and by times amusing. In 1942, the end of the book, Idiss dies. It is 2nd World War also in France and there is only one son, Naftoul, present at the funeral; the rest of the family is hiding, hoping to escape the Holocaust that is in full development. Naftoul is arrested soon after the funeral and dies in Auschwitz. Badinter’s father dies in Sobibor. The book Idiss leaves you with the same feeling as the first chapters of the biography of Simone Veil: you are just living your life, working, trying to do good things and be happy, and then you get persecuted for how others see you: as a Jew and a Jew only. They want you to die for that reason.

Idiss is very refined in language, lovely to read. Moreover Badinter succeeds to describe times, insights and places that are not common knowledge in Western-Europe. In the Netherlands, Sephardic customs and contributions have traditionally dominated more than Ashkenazic experiences (see also this book). Idiss can enrich your views of the European society and European diversity.

More about Idiss in this (French) blog.

You may also like these blogs:
* Anne Frank House Amsterdam: remembrance and reflection
* Grandfathers, Jews and the impulse to act

Aubeterre Underground Church

aubeterre underground church

Aubeterre Underground Church of Saint Jean is an amazing site. The church was carved out of the rocks from the upper side downwards. The crusader Pierre II de Castillon lived in the castle above it and reserved the best spot for himself, with view on the copy of the Holy Grave in Jerusalem. Now you can visit this spot and see what he saw in the XIIth century.

aubeterre underground church 2

Aubeterre Underground Church of Saint Jean is also called the Monolithic Church as it was carved out of the limestone rocks, however not out of a single rock. Still it is one of the largest rock-hewn churches in Europe. There is some discussion about the origin but the main carving job was done in the XIIth century by Benedictine monks. The way to carve it, from the upper side downwards, was influenced by early churches that can still be found in Turkey’s Kappadokia. On their way to Jerusalem the crusaders must have past this region and be inspired by the way they were created and brought this idea back to France.

baptismal font aubeterre

The work took 10 years. 9000 m3 of stone was removed! The church  is  27 meters long, 20 meters high and 16 meters wide. In the middle of the floor you can find a beautiful baptismal pool, carved in the form of a Greek cross. Aubeterre Underground Church was hidden for centuries by a rock fall, and only rediscovered in the 1950′s.

aubeterre underground church entrance

Imagine the first people entering the site; their mouths must have fallen open. They might have lived next door for years without any idea of the miracle that was created there in medieval times. See also this photograph I took at the entrance: if that had not been built, one could easily pass the church unnoticed.

aubeterre underground church from above

Aubeterre Underground Church has enormous high rounded vaults which tower above a monumental reliquary in the form of the holy sepulchre in Jerusalem. The religious artifacts are no longer there. They were brought to Aubeterre-sur-Dronne from Jerusalem by Pierre II de Castillon, crusader and lord of the castle situated above the church. There is an entrance through the rocks to go from the castle down to the deambulatory in the vaults of the church.

aubeterre underground church view ofjerusalem sepulture

Visitors actually enter the church from downstairs and take stairs to go up to the deambulatory that is perched beneath the vaults. Here is the perfect spot where Pierre II as the lord of the castle could overview the whole church. Seeing the holy sepulchre from here creates a highly spiritual ambience. However, the deambulatory is also home for bats. Don’t let it influence your spiritual experience!
Aubeterre-sur-Dronne lies on the road to Santiago de Compostella and always had many pilgrims passing to see the relics.

necropolis aubeterre underground church

Once back downstairs, don’t forget to have a view at the ‘cemetary’, on the side of the church: a complete necropolis that is also hewn out of the rock. It shows the popularity of the church and the holiness it had for visitors and inhabitants. All the graves head in the direction of Jerusalem.

road sign aubeterre underground church

The Coffee Trader

The Coffee Trader is a good book for you, a friend told me and sent me a second hand version by post. My friend was right. What a story about trade in 1659 Amsterdam, where cultures and religions vary and new ways of doing business occur in the markets. David Liss is a writer who knows the word research: he depicts the 17th century with many details of context and history. A great book!

The Coffee Trader tells about Miguel Lienzo, a Jew who lived in Portugal as a converso – a Jew converted to Catholicism – like many other Jews. However the conversos in Portugal were still facing discrimination and many had to fear for their life. So he flew to Amsterdam, at that time a safe haven for Jews. Jews in Amsterdam could practice their religion and be active in trade – although there were plenty of rules between Jews and non-Jews. That in itself is a story so interesting that it is worth to read the book for it. You’ll learn how different communities found a way to live together in a religiously and culturally divided city and have relative peace and justice; at that time, unique in Europe.

Also it is intriguing how converted Portuguese Jews rebuilt their ‘identity’ in Amsterdam. A well organised structure supported those who knew little or nothing about that identity. I particularly liked the description of a woman’s position, Miguel’s brother’s wife Hannah who was brought up in ignorance, thinking she was a Catholic and unable to read or write. In Amsterdam, she is suddenly a Jew, supposed to adhere to a religion and a people that she had learned to despice. She is not walking on that path automatically.

New for me was also the idea of a Mahamad, an 17th century authority in Amsterdam that dealt with all matters for Jews: religiously, politically and legally. Together with rich Portuguese tradesmen they supported the poor Jews, so that the Dutch in Amsterdam would not complain about a burden on their back that came with the Portuguese refugees. However, when tudescos, Jews from eastern countries like Poland arrive in Amsterdam, that attitude is less generous. Most of the tudescos are poor. Although they faced very severe persecution in eastern Europe, the Mahamad takes measures to make their life difficult in the hope that they will choose other destinations than Amsterdam. There are really surprising details about the historical context in The Coffee Trader – and by the way nothing that could not be seen today…

the coffee trader

Miguel lives in an era where tradesmen can easily become very rich or the opposite: loose everything they have. This period in Holland is called the Golden Age and brought a lot of wealth but it was risky. Miguel lost almost everything in the trade of sugar and now wants to try his fortune in a brandnew product: coffee. He wants to acquire the monopoly over this new drink that he estimates to be very promising. His strategy is breathtaking. And so is his playing field. There are so much rumours and hidden agendas around the trade market of Amsterdam that the story is a dazzling experience for the reader. It is really difficult to remember all that’s happening or has been said or might be possible. And that was exactly the reality for tradesmen in 1659 Amsterdam. How can they make their daily decisions without an excellent memory and the right focus?!

Many ethical questions come with the way business was done amid rumours and hidden agendas. Intriguing is the fact that in the end, the hidden agendas Miguel expected were exagerated. Half of them can be interpreted as misunderstandings or even imagination. An interesting lesson learned – but still, when bankruptcy is around the corner for tradesmen who do not watch their backs in the all or nothing market of 1659 Amsterdam, maybe inevitable.

handelaar in koffie

Even though The Coffee Trader appeared already in 2000, this book is of great interest also in 2020. In the light of history, these 20 years do not matter at all. Go read it if you love Amsterdam, if you love trade, if you love history, if you love Jews and the Dutch, if you love risk taking and of course: if you love coffee!
The Coffee Trader exists in Dutch under the title Handelaar in koffie.

You may also like these blogs:
Anne Frank House
Minorities in Gaziantep
Jewish Museum Warsaw context

Westfries Museum Hoorn

westfries museum hoorn

I often went to the beautiful city of Hoorn but I never visited the Westfries Museum Hoorn. That was a mistake! When I finally took the step to visit last week, I saw how beautiful it is, both the ancient building and the collection; I should have gone there before… Learn about the Dutch Golden Age, the 17th century when the Netherlands were a brandnew state, full of ambition in wartorn Europe. Enjoy the attractive presentations!

westfries museum hoorn

Westfries Museum Hoorn is like the Frisians are: it won’t easily show from the outside what is in it. I was never aware that behind the walls of the indeed beautiful ancient building, a wealth of antiquities awaits the visitors. Rooms are decorated like they were in the 17th century. The picture to the left shows a wood carving in a chimney (oak), of men catching a whale: a wonderful picture. This is in the ‘tavern’, a real nice room where you can imagine how people sat together for eating and drinking.

westfries museum hoorn

17th paintings are everywhere. The museum has got magnificent pieces and they have a lot of them. Moreover it is far less busy than museums in Amsterdam so you have all the time you like to watch them in peace and silence.
It is incredible how this 17th century ‘beginning’ country The Netherlands that was threatened from all sides, both by real ennemies like England and Spain, and by natural ennemies such as sea and rivers, built up an imperium with little means, by joining forces together and showing guts and re-thinking trade. It made cities like Hoorn thrive abundantly. Look at this wonderful painting Hoorn View by Hendrick Vroom in 1622 – admire the colours, the details…

westfries museum hoorn
westfries museum hoorn

Another painting I particularly liked is the Kitchen maid who cleanes fish in front of farm with dog by Egbert Lievenzs. van der Poel (1621-1664). It is so different from the paintings of all the important guys (Westfries Museum Hoorn has many in this kind). Ordinary life with ordinary people can be as interesting or even more than the endless row of portraits on all the other walls.

westfries museum hoorn

Now I show you some other pieces that attracted my attention. It is only a selection, to give you an impression of what to expect and indeed I was deeply impressed. Enjoy the variety of what the Westfries Museum Hoorn has to offer!

westfries museum hoorn

The best piece for book lovers: chronicles of Hoorn, published in 1740. Telling the begin and the growth of Hoorn, and in particular the events (the ‘troubles’) until the year 1630. Written by Theodorus Velius, a doctor and a well know chronicler who wrote this in 1704. You can find the tekst of the first pages (in Dutch) on this site. The 1740 version has annotations by another expert, what a joy. Imagine how they produced this, in a time that a book was printed page by page!

westfries museum hoorn

Cutting art, art produced by cutting with scissors; it was difficult to photograph because of the glass reflection as you can see but hopefully you can get a good impression. De Faem was made by Gilles van Vliet, a vinegar maker and wine merchant in Rotterdam 1686. This was only his hobby! But his work had a certain fame because of his ‘excellent curieuse pieces’. Absolutely amazing work and you wonder where someone finds the patience for this art…

Down in the cellar, a lovely niche is reserved for this wooden Maria statue. It dates from 1450 – 1500, is made out of oak, the crown is made of gold with silverthread, pearls and gemstones. A sign mentions that it is called a ‘Maria in sole’ because she stands on a crescent moon, and she is lit by the sun and the stars, as described in Johannis’ Revelations. The cellar was totally quiet when I was there; it is a good place for meditation and prayer. Two chairs in the little niche facilitate visitors to do so.

westfries museum hoorn

Also in the cellar are these tiles, deriving from a farm in Andijk, not far from Hoorn in Westfriesland, dating from 1700-1730. The whole piece forms a ‘wall heater’ and depicts biblical scenes. There are more ‘wall heaters’ in the cellar as well as other interesting tiles. So do not forget to visit the cellar – if you skipp that part of the museum, you really miss something!

Another underground treasure: this painting that is part of a large piece, a tryptich, the Hoorn Panel of Justice. It used to hang behind the judges at the wall of the court room of the old townhall and shows the assumptions of jurisdiction. Most probably several painters worked on it from 1521 – 1530 and it contains 5 stories. I loved story number 4 (on the photograph), the Verdict of Herkenbald. Herkenbald of Bourbon was very ill in his bed when he ordered that his cousin had to be locked up for assaulting a maid. His order was not followed. Therefor Herkenbald cut the throat of his cousin all by himself. Whew…. I stood there thinking what this meant for the court room and the judges that were sitting in front of this painting in the 16th century… What could be the right interpretation of this story?

westfries museum hoorn

This is one other of those incredible museum pieces. The painting dates from 1589, that is now exactly 430 years ago. And what do they show here? The Westfries Museum Hoorn does not just have the painting, it also has the original box that is depicted in the painting. Isn’t that wonderful? I stood there in surprise and believe me, it matches: the box is exactly the box that was painted 430 years ago. Little is known about the painting, the sign mentions ‘two members of the Saint Joris Guild’ – oil painting on linen. OK, so far what we can know about it. As said knowing is not always the most interesting part.

westfries museum hoorn

Another very interesting piece, the gold plated silver Bossu Goblet: I did not find this beautiful or so but it served as a trophy for Hoorn and that is intriguing. It once belonged to the Spanish admiral Maximilien de Hénin-Liétard, the earl of Bossu. In the eternally ongoing war at that time (the 80 year war) the admiral was defeated in 1573 in a war on the water (or sea) close to Hoorn. The goblet in the hands of the people of Hoorn symbolized the new power of the city of Hoorn (and Enkhuizen, also in Westfriesland) that thrived after this heavy battle against the Spanish that they won. I find it so interesting in the Westfries Museum Hoorn, that every object has a story with historical relevance.

westfries museum hoorn
westfries museum hoorn

A coffin dating from 1658: who knows how many bodies were transported in this coffin? Intriguing that it has been preserved during centuries. The four corners are decorated with silver plate angels. I did not find any further explanation about this piece (feel free to comment below!) such as until when it was used and whether it was for the rich only or also for ordinary people. However, very beautiful…

How often do you see table ware with a hare? Here they are, in different shapes and colours. I loved them! Just for the motive.
But if you like to know more, this is berretino-style faience from Liguria, Italy, 1580 – 1620. It appears that the coloured one is a local copy of the Italian work – quite a succesfull one, imo 🙂

Last but not least, I found this silver miniature, dating from 1751. The name of the maker is Arnoldus VAN GEFFEN – not really family I guess but I rarely hear my family name in this region far ‘above the rivers’ > Geffen is a village below the large Dutch rivers.
So I was happily surprised! Well done Arnoldus, I love your silverwork 🙂

You may also like these Dutch special places:
* Hilde’s House
* Adam Tower
* Anne Frank House
* Archaeological Museum Haarlem

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House of Dionysos in Paphos

house of Dionysos in paphos

House of Dionysos in Paphos, Cyprus, has floors full of mosaics. It dates from the 2nd century AD but there is evidence it was built upon a much older building. The mosaics are worth your visit all by themselves, although they lie in a larger archaeological parc next to the seaside of Paphos, with much more to see.

house of Dionysos paphos phaedra and hyppolytos mosaic

The Phaedra and Hyppolytos mosaic for example form a refined work. Hyppolytos is there with his hunting dog and he reads the love letter his stepmother Phaedra sends him. An explanation says he ‘looks embarrassed’ and she is ‘waiting anxiously for his reaction’; I leave it to you to decide whether these observations are correct… Cupido directs a burning torch to her heart as a sign of her passion.

Platforms above the mosaics walk you through or better to say ‘over’ the mosaics. Signs are in Greek and English ànd braille: very customer friendly!

house of Dionysos in paphos animal mosaics
house of paphos Cyprus bear mosaic

There are also great mosaics showing animals, and other aspects of nature, like the animals here: a wild boar purchased by a tiger (?), a bear, a deer, a bull for example.

house of Dionysos in paphos deer mosaic
house of dionysos paphos bull mosaic

All together the House of Dionysos in Paphos has 556 m2 in mosaics so there is a lot to enjoy. Also the more figurative mosaics are very fine, I loved them.

house of Dionysos in paphos figurative mosaic

The House of Dionysos in Paphos lies within a larger archaeological parc called Kato Paphos with more interesting remains to see. Some interesting floors in the open air were covered with protective carpets when I visited, alas. Also the weather was very hot: if you go during the summer, be early to be able to look around the archaeological site without a burning sun over your head. The mosaics of the House of Dionysos themselves are covered with a roof but of course not the whole area is.

house of Dionysos in paphos graves
house of Dionysos in paphos graves

Further on in some corner of the site lie interesting tombs. There was nothing to explain them so if you have information about it, please comment here. They seem to be different from the Tombs of the Kings mentioned on wikipedia, but maybe they were part of them. Some of the tombs were a bit of a mess, as you can see on the photograph to the left.

house of Dionysos graves
house of Dionysos in paphos graves

As said, the House of Dionysos in Paphos was built in the 2nd century AD upon more ancient remains; the oldest one was a sanctuary carved into the natural bedrock. It was destroyed most probably by an earthquake in the 4th century. The leading role Paphos used to have in Cyprus was then transfered to Salamis, also a very interesting site to visit. The coins found on this site can be seen in the Museum of the History of Cypriot Coinage in Nicosia.

You may also like these blogs about other mosaic treasures:

Bardo Museum in Tunis, Tunisia
Zeugma Museum in Gaziantep, Turkey
Agios Trias Basilica in Northern Cyprus

In gesprek met mijn moeder

in gesprek met mijn moeder

In gesprek met mijn moeder is een roerende en persoonlijke bundel van Manola Sint Jago. Met prachtige teksten en beelden neemt zij ons mee in het grote gemis van de geliefde moeder die zij nooit heeft gekend. Daarmee opent zij haar ziel voor degene die haar bundel inziet en brengt zij verbinding tussen zichzelf, de lezer, haar moeder, alle moeders en talloze dochters. In gesprek met mijn moeder is een werk met grote verfijning.

“Het drong pas tot me door op de kleuterschool. Mijn eerste kaart voor moederdag. Je was er niet, maar ik dus wel. Het was heel vreemd, ik was de enige die jou niet had.
fragment uit het gedicht ‘Bestaat er een hemel en een hel?

Manola Sint Jago werd geboren op Aruba. Haar moeder overleed kort daarna. Behalve een foto heeft zij geen herinneringen aan haar moeder. Dit gemis ging ‘als een rode draad’ door haar leven. De gedichten die Manola Sint Jago door de jaren heen over haar moeder schreef, vormden een vorm van gesprek met haar moeder. Na jaren van schrijven en het creëren van prachtige verbeeldingen, is dan nu deze ‘verhalende gedichtenbundel’ verschenen, zoals Manola de bundel zelf noemt.

Lieve moeder, ik heb van die dagen, dan Google ik je naam op internet in de hoop dat ik die vind met je adres of een verhaal met foto’s over jou.
fragment uit het gedicht ‘Lieve moeder, ik heb van die dagen

Van de vele mooie kunst van Manola Sint Jago ben ik al langer een fan. De variëteit is enorm: etsen, schilderijen, houtwerk, sieraden, vazen, kunstkaarten, en al deze werken vanuit een waanzinnige variatie aan materialen. In gesprek met mijn moeder heeft afbeeldingen van diverse prachtige kunstwerken die rond het thema moeder zijn gemaakt. Daarbij toont Manola zich ditmaal dus ook als iemand met de gave van het woord. Ik wil, kan, mag geen volledige gedichten citeren hier. Daarom beperk ik me tot de aanbeveling van enkele gedichten met beelden die ik het mooist vind: Zomaar een dag uit mijn herinnering, over een bezoek aan moeder’s graf als zesjarige; Begrip en vriendschap, over de onzekerheid in het menselijke contact van geven en nemen; Verbonden, de bijzondere afsluiter van deze bundel die ons verbindt met de maker.

In gesprek met mijn moeder
Verhalende gedichtenbundel
Verkrijgbaar via de website van Manola Sint Jago

Lees ook deze blog: De jacht op mijn vader

Salamis: waiting to be discovered

salamis street

Salamis was a city with 100.000’s of inhabitants in ancient times. Only a small part of the city has been excavated, showing Roman and Byzantine remains. Much more is to be discovered as Salamis was founded already in the 11th century BC, ruled by Assyrians, Phoenicians, Egyptians, Persians and Alexander the Great.

salamis unexcavated

Salamis lies next to the sea, at a not very proper but well accessible sand beach. As temperatures can be quite high here in the summer season, this offers a great opportunity to combine a visit to hot Salamis with a good swim to cool down. The site of Salamis is a deserted place. The first excavations here date from 1880 and all excavations stopped after the division of Cyprus in a Turkish and Greek part in 1974. The largest part of Salamis is still covered under sand and bushes. Visitors are scarce.

salamis baths
salamis statue of persephone

The part I liked most is the bathing complex from the 1st century BC, as it has several statues around it with the beautiful dark marble statue of Persephone (on the right). Salamis prospered during 15 centuries until it was destroyed by earthquakes and tidal waves in the 4th century AD. Only some Byzantine activity persevered in Salamis but Arab raids in medieval times brought islam and made an end to christian domination. Many stones from Salamis were used to build Gazimagusa (Famagusta) and other buildings all over the island. All other remains were covered under sand dunes and bushes.

salamis basilica of campanopetra

Worth your attention is also the 6th/7th century AD Basilica of Campanopetra. Cyprus was a very early christian island, as the apostle Saint Barnabas was born in Salamis from a Jewish family. There was a large Jewish community in Salamis, most probably due to its nearby location to Israel.  Saint Barnabas spent time in Israel, became a christian and an active apostle, traveling to major 1st century cities. He returned to Cyprus together with the famous apostle Saint Paul in 46 AD.

salamis mosaic basilica of campanopetra

They created a thorough basis for christianity in very early times in Cyprus. Saint Barnabas’ grave is very near to Salamis and open for visitors although rather disappointing. From the Basilica of Campanopetra site you can see the enormity of the Salamis site as well as the blue Mediterranean Sea. There is a very fine mosaic here (photo on the right), do not leave before you found it – a bit on the side of the ruins.

salamis gymnasium

The gymnasium of Salamis was among the largest of Roman era. Byzantines rebuilt it upon an older complex, destroyed in 4th century AD earthquakes. The marble columns do not match with the capitals on top, most probably the rebuilders just took pieces from elsewhere in the Salamis ruins. To be honest, the gymnasium itself is not very special to visit except for the impression of the large size; however the 44 (!) latrines where people would sit side by side in a semi-circle is a unique place to see.

salamis latrines
salamis latrines

They had good plumbing systems to secure hygiene, fortunately, that are still visible here. Note the funny sign in Turkish, Antik Tuvalet = antique toilet.

salamis the colonnade street

Particularly interesting are the roads that have been excavated. They show how well the roads were made, and also how large the city of Salamis must have been (for example in the 1st century AD it problably had 350.000 inhabitants).

Here some pictures of beautiful streets.

salamis harbour street
salamis street
salamis unexcavated

However, the best may still be uncovered here. Salamis has known Assyrian, Egyptian, Persian and Greek times: all I saw were the much more recent remains of Roman and Byzantine times. The nearby Royal Tombs and other excavations show that deep down there is more to see; much more. Salamis is waiting to be discovered.

Other blogs you may like:
* Harran, nothing to see?
* Göbeklitepe, zero point in time
* Vesunna Museum in Périgueux

Royal Tombs like Homer’s Iliad

royal tombs

Royal Tombs dating from the 8th and 7th century BC can be found in Northern Cyprus. The burial practices offer a good insight into ancient rituals just like Homer described them in the Iliad. However, it is more the knowledge about the Royal Tombs than the visit to the tombs themselves that is interesting.

royal tombs
royal tombs

Homer describes in the Iliad how kings and other noble personages were buried. His words are confirmed by the discoveries at the Royal Tombs in Northern Cyprus, although there are also archaeological theories about Homer being first to tell and invent and then the rituals on Cyprus following his epic narrative.

It is easy to find the Royal Tombs. If you go to the grave or the monastery of Saint Barnabas, north of Gazimagusa / Famagusta, you will see them along the road in the fields. Most objects found are in the Cyprus Museum in the South of the Island; I have not been there yet but it seems interesting as findings include chariots, a throne, incense burners, ivory objects, bronze horse bits and decorated breast plates, pottery and amphorae that contained oil and wine. Kings were buried with lots of grave goods.

royal tombs horse skeleton

On the location of the Royal Tombs however, only the stone buildings of the graves remain as well as the skeletons of horses: try to see one behind the glass on the picture (left). I am not sure if the glass ‘protection’ is helpful; most of them were so humid on the inside that it was impossible to see anything or take pictures. How can a humid glass house be protective for such old remains? My visit was December 2018; maybe it is dryer and more clear in summertime.

Burial in the era of the 8th and 7th century BC did not just come with the above mentioned grave goods but also with sacrifice of horses, donkeys and even humans. Archaeological research only started in the ’60ies here and gave a wealth of information. Whoever thought that Homer just made up his stories in the Iliad, found out that his description of burial practices was very accurate (unless you support the theory that the rituals were only shaped under the influence of Homer’s stories).

royal tombs
royal tombs
royal tombs 50

Most probably (part of) the Royal Tombs were used during many ages. Saint Catherine’s Tomb, number 50, for example, had a chapel on top that dated from the 4rd century BC. Archaeological research in the ’60ies revealed that the chapel was built on a tomb dating from a thousand years earlier than the 4th century chapel. By the way, the chapel was used for Saint Catherine’s veneration even in 1950 BC! So this location was special to many people during at least 2600 years…

cellarga graves
cellarga mezarlik

Not everybody could afford a Royal Tomb. Next to the Royal Tombs lies a necropolis of hundreds, or even thousands of graves. Just like the nearby ancient city of Salamis and the nearby Bronze Age city of Enkomi, only a minor part of the fields have been unearthed. What has been excavated, shows us tombs people could go to by steps downstairs that were cut in the rocks. Large stones sealed the entrances of the burial chambers that were used almost continuously from 700 BC until 400 AD.

Cellarka necropolis
necropolis of cellarga

The picture on the right shows the immense fields with so much left to excavate. Further on you can see the grave and monastery of Saint Barnabas between the trees. Next to the chapel of Saint Barnabas’ grave there are also findings of burial chambers. Maybe that is just ‘the other end’ of the same necropolis….

cellarga necropolis

Like the Royal Tombs, there is not so much ‘to be seen’ here. Nevertheless in the same time it is an exciting experience to stand there and oversee the place and consider that all you see might have been part of an immense necropolis, used during more than 10 centuries by hundreds of thousands of people. Neither in the nearby cities of Salamis or Enkomi nor at the Royal Tombs or Cellarga necropolis any excavation took place since 1974: the year that Cyprus was split in a Turkish and a Greek side. But nothing stops you from visiting the sites already now: you can feel the vibe of Homer’s Iliad here quite clearly!