If you follow this blog, then you perhaps also are familiar with my first blog post about how I developed my medieval alter ego Ava van Allecmere. In short, I was born in that area and the abbey of Egmond church books were the source of my SCA persona.
The abbey in Egmond still is one of my favourite museums and it is high time I devote a blogpost to it!
In the first half of the 8th century Saint Adelbert arrives in the area which we now know as North Holland. He was a companion of Saint Willibrord. Legends say that Adelbert was the son of king Egilbert of Sussex, who had renounced all his rights to the throne and became a missionary. After his death, Adelbert is buried in a wooden chapel in Egmond.
In the first half of the 10th century, Dirk 1 the count of Holland built a convent in Egmond, thus creating the oldest convent in The Netherlands. The nuns’ sole purpose was to pray for the health of the count’s family. Saint Adelbert’s bones were transferred to the convent in 922, at the request of a nun named Wilfsit. It is believed a well with healing water started to appear very soon after. It is a shame there is no more information on Wilfsit.
The nunnery became famous because of the well and attracted many pilgrims. Of course, in 950 the nuns were *moved* and replaced by monks. Now, why doesn’t that surprise me? Mansplaining medieval style….
Most of what we know about Adelbert comes from the monk Ruopert of Mettlach. At the end of the 10th century, Egbert, bishop of Trier and son of Count Dirk II of Holland, sent Ruopert to Egmond to record the local stories about Adelbert. Ruopert processed these traditions into a “Vita Sancti Adalberti” ( biography).
Around the year 975 a fire destroyed the box that contained the bones of St. Adelbert. A piece of parchment, dated from around that same time, was found in Egmond in 1983. It is believed to have been created after the fire for the new box with what was left of St. Adelbert’s remains. It reads: ‘Hic requiescunt membra sancti Adhelberti confessoris Christi‘ (These are the bones of Saint Adalbert, follower of Christ).
The old & first convent no longer exists. It was demolished in 1573, during the Spanish Siege. The only thing that remains is the outline, look how lovely.
One of the most spectacular pieces in the museum, is the 12th century tympan of St. Adelbert. This was on the west wall of the abbey, when it was renovated in the mid 12th century.
The rest of the abbey museum’s collection consists of models of the abbey from the 10th century till its destruction in 1573, historical books and some lovely examples of excavated pottery. Other art, photos and movies bring the remarkable history of the abbey to life.