Tag Archives: Utrecht

A historical cemetery

On The Faculty Lounge, an American law blog with a generously large corner for legal history, one can read this spring a series of postings about old cemeteries by Alfred Brophy, in itself part of his larger series on nineteenth century monuments from the South of the United States. Many of the monumental tombstones and cenotaphs are really works of art. Those monuments commemorating historical figures, and not in the least the lawyers among them, are shown by Brophy to be of great interest to legal historians. Musing on them I realized I live not far from a cemetery which admittedly cannot boast similar architectonic beauty and great historic significance, but one aspect of it definitely is of some importance for Dutch legal history. When looking for literature about it I noticed one of the authors who wrote about this cemetery has recently published a major study which deserves mentioning here. I will come back to him.

Church Oud-Zuilen

A few kilometers to the north of the city of Utrecht lies the former village Oud-Zuilen, now a part of Maarssen. Oud-Zuilen is situated on the borders of the river Vecht. The village is dominated by the castle Slot Zuilen, and you can safely guess the lords of the castle have something to do with this cemetery as well. In 1781 the bailiff of Oud-Zuilen filed a request with the States of Utrecht asking them to allow the owners of the graves to create a cemetery, because they could not any more bury people inside the church of Oud-Zuilen due to growing stench and danger to people’s health. The request was answered very positively. The States of Utrecht authorized the bailiff to sell obligations to cover the costs of the new cemetery which was opened in 1782. Willem René van Tuyll van Serooskerken, the lord of Oud-Zuilen, graciously donated the grounds for it. A treatise send in 1781 to the Utrecht Society for Sciences –  the Provinciaal Utrechts Genootschap still exists – gives detailed information on the plans.

Cemetery Oud-Zuilen

Burying people in churches had long been normal practice, but during the eighteenth century people started to feel more and more awkward about it. The initiative at Zuilen was welcomed most heartily by the Hollandsche Maatschappij der Wetenschappen, the Academy of Sciences in Holland, which awarded baronet Van Tuyll van Serooskerken a prize in 1783. The new Dutch digital library Early Dutch Books Online yields quickly at least two booklets on public cemeteries, a sermon by W.A. Ockerse from 1792, Het begraven der dooden buiten de kerk en stadspoorten (…), and the inaugural lecture (Inwijingsrede…) by historian Adriaan Kluit (1735-1807) from 1776 as a professor of Greek and rhetorics at the Athenaeum Illustre in Middelburg, of which text a Dutch translation from the Latin original was published in 1795. You can easily find more here about kerkhoven.

In 1795 the States of Holland decreed that burials were no longer allowed inside churches, and they incidentally curbed the pomp and circumstances accompanying burials. During the period of Batavian Republic (1795-1806) a law was passed in 1804 forbidding burials in churches. However, in 1813 this law was repealed, and only in 1825 burying people in churches became definitely unlawful. It seems the cemetery of Oud-Zuilen is the first Dutch cemetery outside a town.

The Tuyll van Serooskerken family vault

Members of the Van Tuyll van Serooskerken family figure prominently among the people buried on this cemetery. In fact the family has created a family vault with an imposing monument, and a part of the cemetery is still reserved for this family. However, the most famous member of this family, Belle van Zuylen (1740-1805), better known as Isabelle de Charrière, was not buried here but in Le Colombier (Switzerland).

Slot Oud-Zuilen

I cannot stop myself showing you at least one photo of Slot Zuilen. Inside the castle you can visit the main hall with a beautiful seventeenth century gobelin tapestry. One of the rooms has been kept in the style of the late eighteenth century, with the harpsichord and writing desk helping you to imagine Belle van Zuylen writing her letters and novels, playing the harpsichord and composing music.

The tomb of Donders

Back to the cemetery! One of the most famous Dutch people buried at Oud-Zuilen is Frederik Cornelis Donders (1811-1889). From 1848 to 1862 he was a professor of medicine at Utrecht University, and in 1862 he switched to the chair  for physiology. Donders’ life is an example of growing professionalism. Within the field of physiology he concentrated on eye patients and founded an ophthalmic hospital. This building in Utrecht looks very much akin to the Amsterdam Rijksmuseum and the main railway station, but only on a much smaller scale… You can see a part of the monument for Donders at the Janskerkhof on a picture in an earlier post.

The Oud-Zuiloen cemetery seen form the west

At the end of this post I have put on purpose this picture of the Oud-Zuilen cemetery with on the left two windmills. One of them figured this year in a posting on the history of waterboards. Since 1997 much has been done to restore this cemetery to its former beauty. In 2005-2006 the family vault of the Van Tuyll’s has been restored. The inscriptions at the entrance “Wij leven” and “Wij sterven” (We live – We die) have been left in their present dilapidated state, but the inscriptions are now also shown on two glass plates. J.G. van Citters-Eymert published in 1972 a pioneer study on this cemetery – ‘Zuilen voorop met openbare begraafplaats’ [Zuilen ahead with public cemetery], Maandblad Oud-Utrecht 45 (1972) 90-91. Hein Vera, ‘200 jaar Algemene Begraafplaats Zuilen’, Maandblad Oud-Utrecht 55 (1982) 13-14, commemorated the bicentenary of the cemetery. I have used both articles for writing this post. Bibliographical research for the history of the city, diocese and province of Utrecht is made easier by the Sabine website.

On June 9, 2011, Hein Vera defended in public his Ph.D. thesis at the Radboud Universiteit Nijmegen on the history of the commons in the region around Bois-le-Duc from 1000 to 2000 (….Dat men het goed van den ongeboornen niet mag verkoopen. Gemene gronden in de Meierij van Den Bosch tussen hertog en hertgang 1000 – 2000) (Oisterwijk 2011). Hein Vera is well-known for his tireless efforts behind the portal GeneaKnowhowNet. One of its offsprings is Regulations in the Netherlands with now some 2300 transcriptions of sources for legal history from the Low Countries. Congratulations!

A royal liberty: the Dutch free markets on Queens’ Day

Today is a day on which The Wedding inevitably seems to dominate the news. Royal affairs take pride of place for at least one day. Tomorrow Dutch people will continue creating a royal atmosphere on Koninginnedag, Queens’ Day, the birthday of the late Queen Juliana. When Queen Beatrix ascended to the throne in 1980 she decided to maintain April 30, her mother’s birthday, as Queens’ Day. Since her own birthday is on January 31, in midwinter, it was very sensible to keep this holiday fixed in springtime.

To the best of my knowledge the vrijmarkten, the free markets on Queens’ Day, have gained any importance only after 1980. Before that time this kind of flea market was not a large element of the activities on Queens’ Day organized by the Oranjeverenigingen, the local societies which honor the Dutch royal house. A pageant with music by a brass band, hoisting the national flag and the orange-colored pennon, all kind of games, folklore activities such as traditional dances and music, sport and activities for children used to be the main elements of Queens’ Day. The royal family maintains since 1980 the tradition of visiting on April 30 a village and a town to participate in these activities, which can be rather home-made and for teenage princes even outright boring. Perhaps they were painfully aware of the character of these visits, an invented tradition. The late Queen Juliana had established the tradition of a pageant of loyal citizens parading to the palace at Soestdijk presenting the queen with all kinds of presents. Some young princes found even that difficult to digest.

However, since the introduction of the free markets on Queens’ Day this new custom clearly outstripped other activities in scope, scale and importance. In particular the free markets in Utrecht and Amsterdam have become mass events. A few days before the official start the local councils mark the area in which the free market will be held. On the eve of Queens’ Day, and in fact already hours before the Queens’ Night as it has been named, people show up with the things they would like to sell. At the start the whole things still resembles the original intention of the free market, a market where you can wander around at ease and wonder about the things on sale, strike a bargain with someone and go home with a funny object for a very nice price. Tomorrow you will find yourself back in the midst of an enormous crowd, people might sometimes be a bit less likeable, and you will probably look in vain for something worth all your efforts to enter Amsterdam or Utrecht at all.

Entering the Utrecht free market zone

Entering the Utrecht free market zone

My problem is not with the free market as such. The city council of Utrecht has restricted the area of the free market to the northern part of the old city, leaving the other more beautiful parts in quiet and peace, and it is wonderful to enjoy them. In Amsterdam the Vondelpark has been delineated as the children’s area who can perform music or funny acts for some money in exchange, adult people can bring their stuff and merchandise to the other streets and squares of the free market. How to approach the subject of the free market, as an anthropologist or as an ordinary citizen, as an economist or as a political theorist? How to avoid easy jesting and tradition bashing? And maybe the most obvious question, what does legal history have to do with the free market?

To some extent this one day free market seems to encapsulate the virtues and vices of the concept free market. For me the traffic signs used to mark the areas seem to signify both the geographic and the conceptual limits of the free market.

No free market at this side

“No free market at this side”

What started as a funny imitation of a flea market has grown to an oversized real open air market. Instead of people willingly bringing things from their attics to the street and behaving like one day merchants they behave like real merchants, claiming the best spots, pushing away others and setting themselves the goal of getting profit out of it. If ordinary and would-be merchants can try to claim a spot, the inhabitants of the streets within the official areas have reacted the right way by putting signs at their windows, and using even a kind of semi-official looking poster showing the queen saying “Reserved for occupants”.

Only for occupants

For occupants by royal consent…

A second thing to note is the sheer scale of regulations needed to ensure safe proceedings. According to the local news station RTV Utrecht 220 traffic signs are needed to mark the zone free market. In the past providing food and drinks to visitors of the free market turned out to be the weak spot of the whole concept.

A road sign for permit holders

An area designated for permit holders

Merchants entered the areas with dozens of booths and occupied the places meant for the one day free traders. The number of permits has been lowered to just 55 stalls. With the permits and the traffic signs come hundreds of volunteers to keep things running smoothly. Today I was at first slightly bewildered because of a road sign about permits, but its explanation is clear.

When an estimated half million people are going to visit Utrecht – and even more Amsterdam – police regulations are clearly needed. Let legal history enter! In medieval times a free market, a vrijmarkt – Freimarkt in German – was a market to which merchants and traders could freely come. They did not have to pay the normal entrance fees, they enjoyed protection against juridical actions, in short they only had to show their skills as merchants and to obey the proverbial laws of the market: selling their ware honestly, paying with good currency, and guaranteeing the quality of the products sold insofar as indicated by law. The rules of the present day free markets in Utrecht and Amsterdam are pretty straightforward. One can view them as extensions of the normal general police regulations (Algemene Politieverordening). Most salient is the strict prohibition for private persons to sell drinks.

One-way traffic on the canals of Utrecht

One-way traffic on the canals of Utrecht

In view of the expected number of people visiting Utrecht and Amsterdam by boat, and the use of alcoholic beverages by the guests aboard, it is no surprise the traffic in the canals around the city center of Utrecht has been restricted temporarily to one way traffic. In Amsterdam this would not be as easy to propose and enforce as it is in Utrecht.

The end of the free market zone

Two signs marking the end of the free market zone

What happens to the goods not sold after the closure of the free market at 6.00 PM? Taking your things back home is one option, leaving it as garbage is perhaps another way, and anyway tons of garbage have to be cleared away, which calls for a major effort of the municipal cleansing departments. Instead of taking your stuff down from your attic or from your shed and bringing it to the free market many people prefer the virtual markets on Internet. We Dutch have our own variations on Ebay such as Marktplaats and Marktplaza. Why take the trouble of going to the vrijmarkt? What makes people connect selling your things on the street with a royal holiday? Is it just showing what seems to be an innate part of the Dutch character, being at heart a merchant? One can enjoy this feeling going to the virtual market squares, too. Perhaps even closer to the Dutchman’s most inner feelings is the penchant for free things. Nowadays this royal holiday seems to combine perfectly with an almost royal liberty to behave for just one day as a real merchant. Having the feeling you are at liberty to do what you want during such holidays goes indeed a long way. It seems Queens’ Day is a more jolly holiday than May 5, the Dutch Liberation Day. Notions of citizenship, of having to fight for freedom in order to be worthy of freedom, in short conscious efforts to make the celebrations more serious give this day an ideological load which does not weigh upon Queens’ Day, and this is enforced by the acts of remembrance of the Second World War on May 4.

Putting things into perspective is one of the goals legal historians should strive for. On the congress calendar of this blog I cannot include one day events for reasons of space. It seemed fitting to make an exception for this yearly one day event, an event starting the night before really! This week Mary L. Dudziak noted on the Legal History Blog an article citing the famous saying that the American constitution was not intended “to embody a particular economic theory”. The Dutch one day free market seems to be full of signs and symbols which merit some attention. Very ordinary things have their name already in Roman law, res cotidianae, and such common things are often the bones of contention, not only the loftiest concepts and aspirations.

A postscript

After checking the spelling and publishing this post it took me some time to realize one can spell one of the most often occurring words in several ways. I used the spelling Queens’ Day, which strictly speaking refers to a day celebrating two or more queens. April 30 was Queen Juliana’s birthday, Queen Beatrix continued the tradition, so this is perfectly correct. However, the Dutch word Koninginnedag refers to just one queen. Incidentally I remember using as a kid the more difficult way to pronounce the word koningin, and my sister loved to get me saying it... The English language provides us also with the possibility to write Queen’s Day and Queensday. The website of Queens’ College Cambridge can tell you more about “That Apostrophe”.

Since 2013 with the new Dutch king Willem-Alexander the traditions of Queens’ Day have been moved from April 30 to April 27, and the day is now called Koningsdag, King’s Day.

Imagining a lictor

At the end of last week’s post featuring Lady Justice’s square I wrote about a bas-relief by Jeanot Bürgi showing a Roman lictor as his reaction to the invitation to make a sculpture portraying a law faculty, but I did not include a picture of it. Today I made a photo of this bas-relief along the Nieuwegracht in Utrecht. The medieval canals in Utrecht are very typical. Unlike canals in cities as Amsterdam, Leiden and Delft they have werven, quays on each side. Only the Kromme Nieuwegracht and Plompetorengracht have a more usual form, but there, too, the street with cellars under the pavement is high above the water level.

A lictor in his role of executioner

A lictor in his role of executioner - sculpture by Jeanot Bürgi

My photo does not present the sculpture in its very new, almost white form as on the photograph in Reliëfs in blauw, but thirty years later, tested by time and rain. I had to take this picture from the other side of the canal standing on the wharf, not more closely from a bridge like the picture in the other post. Even now you can see a lot. Bürgi has clearly chosen a rather grim aspect of early Roman law. As an executioner the lictor does not look very likeable when his axe comes down on the neck of the criminal. The public is represented by a series of wide opened yelling mouths. The fasces are also an element of the fence around the old Court of Justice. The immediate vicinity of this court probably worked as a suggestion for the sculptor. You can see these sculptures only when you walk fairly attentive along the old canals of Utrecht. For some images of justice you certainly have to search carefully, and these sculptures below street level offer an example in its own class.

Lady Justice’s square

In an earlier post on legal iconography I expressed the view that past images of justice do influence our imagination of justice. Reflecting again on this subject made it clear to me that there is no harm presenting modern images of justice on my legal history blog. When preparing this post I became more and more aware that I want to restrict myself here to sculptures, but buildings and even open space matter as well. Although I focus on modern sculptures in Utrecht you will also see pictures of buildings.

Buildings and objects in Utrecht have been the objects of earlier posts here. It seemed feasible to expand the series of photos I already presented with new ones. What triggered me to fulfill this wish was a very simple fact. The modern Court of Justice in Utrecht has its main entrance at the Vrouwe Justitiaplein, “Lady Justice’s Square”.

Lady Justice

A scuplture of Justice


At the entrance of the modern Court of Justice is a bronze sculpture of Justice created by Elselien van der Graaf in 2000. Before you want to judge this representation of justice as rather traditional I would like to look at a second sculpture at the same square.

Between good and evil - sculpture

Between Good and Evil, the Justice Column

Between Good and Evil, the Justice Column is the title of this sculpture in reinforced concrete by Nicholas Pope placed in 2000. This column looks rather like a leg with a large foot. At the top the words Vrowue Justitia is inscribed in yellow letters. The full text becomes only visible when you look at all sides of this sculpture. At Rechtspraak, the Dutch central website for jurisdiction, you can find more information about these objects and other art objects in and around the building. I should note that in Dutch court rooms you will find copies of a very modern styled painting of the Dutch queen, and this, too, adds to the image of justice.

This post is to some extent a kind of round-up. The legal world and legal systems are not only made visible in images of justice, but also in buildings and the actual forms of justice, law and legal imagination and representation. At the corner of the Lange Nieuwstraat and the Hamburgerstraat in Utrecht is the old court of justice with the entrance shown in the banner of my blog. It came to my attention that the angel like figure is not an allegory of justice. The sculptor Joannes Rijnboutt completed in 1838 a design by city architect and draughtsman Christiaan Kramm aiming to represent The Genius of Legislation.

The Dutch blazon at the former kantongerecht

The Dutch blazon at the entrance of the former kantongerecht

In a corner of this square is also an early 20th century building which has housed the kantongerecht, the lower court in the Dutch judicial system. With the faces of the lions turned threateningly to possible visitors the sculpture with the Dutch blazon and the motto Je maintiendrai (I will maintain) is more pregnant than usual versions.

The old back entrance of the court or justice

At the back of the old court of justice on the premises of the Benedictine Saint Paul’s Abbey you can still see a seventeenth century entrance along the Nieuwegracht in typical Dutch Renaissance fashion. Apart from the blazon of the province of Utrecht this gate could have been present in any Dutch city.

A sculpture of righteousness

A lantern console with a sculpture representing righteousness

The column at Lady Justice’s square was rather large. The sculpture below street level at the Kromme Nieuwegracht at a lantern console is really small, perhaps some forty by thirty centimeters. More than 300 lanterns along the medieval canals of Utrecht have been enriched since 1953 with such sculptures as Rechtvaardigheid (Righteousness) by Jeanot Bürgi. Two children fight over an object, and the woman raises her left hand to stop their fight. When discussing justice, you cannot leave out righteousness and equity. I had to search for this particular sculpture created around 1980, because my copy of the first edition of Reliëfs in blauw (Relief in blue) by A. Graafhuis and C.A. Baart de la Faille (Utrecht-Antwerpen 1974) obviously does not mention it.

Willem Molengraaff

Willem Molengraaff (1858-1931), law professor at Utrecht University

During my round-up I spotted even more interesting consoles. Graafhuis and Baart de la Faille show at the Nieuwegracht 3 a console by Bürgi representing the law faculty with an image of a Roman lictor, but this example will have to do. For your consolation, and because I think it fits into this post, I will end here with a sculpture showing one of Utrecht’s law professors. This bas-relief designed by Jeroen Hermkens and made by Amiran Djanashvili was placed in 2004 outside the Institute for Private Law. Since 1958 this institute is named the Molengraaff Instituut in honor of Willem Molengraaff (1858-1931). The text placed below this sculpture mentions for instance his work for the Dutch bankruptcy law of 1893. Molengraaff worked not only in the field of commercial law, in particular maritime law, but he advocated also international law and pleaded very early for extensive interpretation of the concept of unlawful action.

Some of Molengraaff’s famous early articles have been digitized for the Igitur Archief, the digital repository of Utrecht University Library, and four of his books are present in the digitized special collections of the same library. Studies on and works by Molengraaff can be easily found using library catalogues. The online Bibliography for Dutch History does not mention the essay on Molengraaff by Ter Horst and Korthals Altes in the volume Rechtsgeleerd Utrecht, edited by three legal historians, the late Govaert van den Bergh, Job Spruit and Marijke van de Vrugt (Zuphen-Linschoten 1986).

Snow is everywhere

It’s time for the seasonal blog post! Winter in Utrecht has started early this year with lots of snow, therefore just one picture with snow will not do. The two pictures shown here are both connected with law and history. To make things more interesting I more or less turned around to take each picture at the Janskerkhof, the square around the St. John’s Church, in the inner city of Utrecht.

The former Hoofdwacht at the Janskerkhof with a statue of Anne Frank

The blazon on the facade of this seventeenth-century building might look familiar for visitors of this blog. On the page for Dutch legal history I show the blazon of the Province of Utrecht as a part of the United Dutch Provinces with the motto Concordia res parvae crescunt, “Small things grow through unity”. The former Hoofdwacht adjacent to the Janskerk was in the seventeenth century the main guard-house of the city. It now houses the office of the department for postgraduate legal education. During the summer the Utrecht Summer School, too, uses this building as one of its offices. The choir of the  Janskerk housed until 1820 the university library. The bronze statue of Anne Frank was created in 1959 by sculptor Pieter d’Hont (1917-1997). Every Saturday a lovely flower market is held at the Janskerkhof square. No doubt this has inspired the members of a female student association to establish the tradition of laying flowers at the pedestal of the statue whenever one has successfully passed examinations.

Let’s now turn around:

Utrecht Law Library facing the Janskerkhof

One can access the Utrecht Law Library at several entrances. It is remarkable the entrance at the Janskerkhof is not also its main address! The elaborately decorated entrance was built when after 1580 a former Franciscan convent was turned into the seat of the States of Utrecht. Between 1809 and 1811 a tribunal was housed in this building during the French occupation of The Netherlands. In the nineteenth century Utrecht University housed here medical laboratories and its anatomical museum, now housed at the University Museum. The zoological department remained here until 1975. In 1981 the building reopened after extensive restoration to house the Law Library.

Since a few years large flags and photographs are put on display at the Janskerkhof to attract visitors to all kind of events. This time the outer flags point to the exhibition Treasures from the Forbidden City, featuring mechanical music instruments from Beijing at the National Museum for Mechanical Music Instruments. The flag in the middle alerts you to the yearly chamber music festival led by violinist Janine Jansen. The Janskerkhof was one of the places where composer and carillon player Jacob van Eyck (1590-1657) played on recorder his wonderful variations on all kind of songs, chants and psalms. Music is no newcomer here!

An old boundary

What happened to the walking historian? Lately I did not often go for a walk. During springtime I made several long walks, and I promised to keep a story about one of these walks in stock.

In February Janjaap Luijt published a short note ‘De leeuwenpaal: grensconflicten tussen Utrecht en Holland’ (The lion’s post: boundary conflicts between Utrecht and Holland) in the journal Oud-Utrecht 81 (2010) 10-11, the first of a series of short articles on boundary-posts in this journal of the historical society for Utrecht Oud-Utrecht. On the cover of this issue two men pose in historical costumes in front of one of the old boundary-post discussed by Luijt.

An old boundar-post along the Hollandsche Rading

An old boundary-post along the Hollandsche Rading

I would like to add some information to Luijt’s article which clearly was meant to introduce the subject and to point to the present situation of these objects. Luijt sketches their history. The sixteenth-century posts were renewed in 1719, and eight of them again in 1925. Luijt mentions the 1531 peace treaty on the boundary between Utrecht and Holland. The Great Council of Malines also had to give judgment about the exact boundary. J.M.I. Koster-van Dijk published Gooilanders voor de Grote Raad 1470-1572 (Amsterdam 1979) in which she dealt with all cases brought before this court concerning the Gooiland, the most eastern part of the medieval county of Holland. Many historians have written about Gooiland.  On May 21, 1541 the Great Council pronounced an important verdict on the disputed boundary between Utrecht and Holland.

The boundary-post on the picture I took in early spring is situated at the Hollandsche Rading, a field name which literally means “The boundary of Holland”, a straight line in the landscape, nowadays part of the border between the provinces of Utrecht and North-Holland. The forest in the background is called Einde Gooi, “The End of Gooi”.

A team lead by Thom de Smidt and the late Jan van Rompaey published six volumes with calendars of the verdicts given by the Great Council of Malines between 1465 and 1581. In the fourth volume of the Chronologische lijsten van de geëxtendeerde sententiën (…) Grote Raad van Mechelen (Brussels 1985) it is indicated at no. 11 that several dossiers of one of the highest courts of the Low Countries refer to the 1541 case. The Werkgroep Grote Raad van Mechelen, the team of legal historians that has done so much to enlarge knowledge about the Great Council of Malines, published several books on cities, regions and even one on a country and their cases decided at Malines, for Haarlem, Amsterdam, Leiden, Gooiland, Delfland – the region around Delft – and Portugal. Checking the inventories of archival collections at Het Utrechts Archief made it clear that one could harvest also a nice number of cases concerning the city and diocese of Utrecht. Due to the renovation of the main Utrecht archive building it will not be easy to do research on the history of Utrecht in the near future. As always, some sensible planning and patience will help more than complaining about this situation. For this posting on boundary-posts it is clear how the presence of these historical objects can make one curious to know more about the history to which they refer.

Again, images of justice

Searching images of justice was the title of my latest post on legal iconography ten days ago. After I wrote it I kept questioning myself whether I have done at all justice to this subject? In one respect I certainly used a restriction to the collections and websites I mentioned here and on my website: they should reflect a large degree of order and accessibility. I seemed to restrict myself therefore to online databases with images. In principle this might be all right, but it invoked some comments. Mike Widener, curator of the Rare Books Room of the Yale University Law School Library and well-known for his blog accompanying the fine collections at Yale, pointed to the collection of images he presents at a Flickr website. “Highlighting images from the Rare Book Collection, Lillian Goldman Law Library, Yale Law School” is the modest notice on this website with sixteen small thematic collections, including images from Dutch law books. Widener has added to each image either at least the title of the book from which the images stems or a somewhat longer notice. First of all one must acknowledge the effort and the very fact of showing images without for example ugly transparent logo’s against possible infringements of copyright, unfortunately something quite commonly encountered. It wets your appetite for more detailed descriptions and more search possibilities, and surely this will follow when these collections grow in the wake of the exhibitions organized at the Rare Books Department of the Yale University Law School Library and shown on the blog.

To all these images I add here my own pictures of buildings, of landscapes, even of road signs, and I would not dare calling it a collection, and nevertheless I continue taking pictures. Making photographs can be a way to make you look better at things, but even so often the results are just silly pictures. Israel Kiek was one of the earliest Dutch photographers. He gave his name to kiekjes, the diminutive of those peculiar pictures without any pretensions that speak only to your next of kin. Kiek’s name is very much akin to the Dutch verb for looking, kijken!

The frieze at the west entrance of the Buurkerk in Utrecht

The frieze at the west entrance of the Buurkerk in Utrecht

In the old city of Utrecht two churches were dedicated to Mary, the church of the collegiate chapter of St. Mary, and the main parish church, officially a Maria Minor, most times called Buurkerk, “Citizens’ Church”. The frieze on the west entrance dates not from the fifteenth century, but from the restauration of the church between 1950 and 1960. On the right you see a religious theme: it shows angels around another angel playing the organ. On the left, however, is a secular theme: proud citizens of Utrecht, some of them with a helmet and arms. It would be very easy to show in an iconographic collection each section of the frieze separately, but the interesting fact is their juxtaposition. At first it would seem perfectly sensible to show only the left part of the freeze in a collection for legal iconography, but this does injustice to the artefacts in situ. In fact, this combination of secular culture and religion is the very paradigm of late medieval Utrecht as described and characterized in the major monograph by Llewellyn BogaersAards, betrokken en zelfbewust. De verwevenheid van cultuur en religie in katholiek Utrecht, 1300-1600 (2 vol., Utrecht 2008); her title translates as “Earthly, involved and self-conscious. The interdependence of culture and religion in catholic Utrecht, 1300-1600”. A comment to a photograph of the doors in the collections of the Utrecht archives states that at funerals the body of the deceased used to enter through the left door and to leave through the right door.

The citizens' section of the frieze at the west entrance of the Buurkerk, Utrecht

The citizens’ section of the frieze at the west entrance of the Buurkerk, Utrecht

At the centre of the citizens’ section of the frieze is the city blazon which shows at the left the red mantle of Saint Martin of Tours, the patron saint of Utrecht. At the right this saint is shown sitting on horseback and sharing one half of his mantle with a beggar. Thus a religious image is at the focus point of this part of the sculptural design. To be sure, to understand this frieze better a full description is needed and more information about it. I have shown it here as an example of the limitations of pictures and consequences of choices made by photographers and collectors alike.

Doing legal iconography calls for many things to be taken into consideration. For me a fascinating distinction is to be made between imagined justice and images of actual justice, not to mention those images that have become iconic images of justice. Images often fire your imagination more than the actual forms of justice and law. If legal historians should restrict discussing images to debates about the copyright on and the use of images, we would blind out the very real impact of images on legal life and legal history. Apart from law books The Yale Law Library Rare Books blog brings comics and even the Supreme Court Bobbleheads to your attention, and any law library can find here inspiration for exhibitions.

Defense by water

Military history is in no way my forte. Yet involuntarily I get rather often in touch with traces of the military past when walking around Utrecht. North and east of Utrecht are a number of forts that belong to the former Nieuwe Hollandse Waterlinie, the “New Dutch Water Defense Line” which stretched from Amsterdam via Utrecht to the Lek branch of the Rhine. In war time a number of polders would be inundated; the weakest points in the defense line were protected by fortifications. Some forts are quite small, nothing more than just one central bomb free building surrounded by earthen walls and water, others are large. Fort Rijnauwen, the largest fort, has an area of 31 hectare. The forts have long lost their military importance.  The Ministry of Defense still possesses a number of the forts built during the 19th and 20th century, but a growing number has been transferred to all kind of institutions. The former Fort Hoofddijk is now the main centre of the botanical gardens of Utrecht University, and also home to its paleomagnetic laboratory.

One aspect of the forts has a connection with legal history: according to the Kringenwet (“Zone Law”) of 1853 the area around the forts was divided into three zones. In the inner zone building with brick was only allowed to a height of 50 cm. Buildings in the outer zone could be made of brick, but in war time they could be demolished without warning and without any right for compensation. The outer perimeter was one kilometer. In effect it meant that the city of Utrecht could not start building large new suburbs north and east of the old city. Only in 1951 this law against brick buildings was mitigated, and in 1963 finally abolished. As a result building progress on this side of Utrecht started belatedly. On the northern limit of Utrecht the zone around the forts is still relatively empty. The relative calm around the forts provided birds and plants with a safe habitat. I remember visiting Fort Rijnauwen in the seventies looking for birds, and it is fittingly protected nowadays by Staatsbosbeheer, the National Forest Service.

Today I walked to three of the forts in my vicinity.

Fort Blauwkapel is perhaps the most curious fort: it encloses within its walls a tiny village. The small fortification shown here dates from around 1850. Its restoration was completed in 2009. A scouting group uses this building.

Fort Voordorp

Fort Voordorp has become a party center. There are few neighbors within hearing distance… Notice the two traffic signs at the right: this place is again forbidden to the general public! Only the lower one is legally enforceable and would suffice.

Fort Ruigenhoek

Fort Ruigenhoek

Fort Ruigenhoek and its main building from 1870 is not just home to a colony of bats, but hosts every summer KAAP, a manifestation of modern art. In 1996 the fortifications around Amsterdam were added to the UNESCO World Heritage List, but the forts around Utrecht are every bit as interesting. Fort Vechten has been chosen as the location of a new center for the history of the water defense line. This fort is located near the archaeological site of the Roman castrum Fectio, a part of the limes in the area along the Rhine estuary. Here Roman and recent history touch each other.

Où sont les neiges d’antan?

This blog should not try to be too exclusive: this month bloggers seem to have universally agreed to add a touch of winter on their pages. Here my addition to this year’s snow pictures.

Let me add some references to the recent post on the medieval history of Utrecht and the example of canon Hugo Wstinc. The study by Jan Kuys, Kerkelijke organisatie in het middeleeuwse bisdom Utrecht (Nijmegen 2004) is a fine guide to the institutional history of ecclesiastical and religious institutions, including chapters and canons, within the medieval diocese Utrecht. Kuys provides ample references to studies and editions in this field. The links on the website of the Contactgroep Signum will bring you to some interesting online sources, and their current bibliography will be useful, too.