The 1336 Indulgence from Zutphen

As you know, my main focus is the medieval history of the Low Lands. I am forever interested in the general medieval history of my country. I have a beautiful piece for you today! Have a seat, grab a drink and enjoy this original pearl.

The ‘Rondeel’ was one of several nunneries in Zutphen. Alfardus Marinus van Drynen donated the house Rondeel to a number of young ladies for a ‘devout life’ on 14 February 1334. The young ladies had no specific monastic rule, they had no chapel and there was no rector. According to the foundation deed, there were at least 12 nuns.

Two years after their foundation, in 1336, the Rondeel nuns received the rights to hand out indulgences to their benefactors. Everybody who donated money to the nunnery, received a 40 day indulgence. This meant that their stay in Purgatory would be shortened by 40 days, after which their soul was purified.

The indulgence was made by a handful of Italian bishops in the Papal palace in Avignon in 1336. Attached to this parchment is a smaller document, written by the bishop of Utrecht, Jan van Diest to validate this indulgence.

Papal palace in Avignon, source: pxfuel

Handing out an indulgence was reserved for the pope and several selected cardinals and archbishops. The more signatures or seals on the indulgence, the higher the value, because it was the believed the indulgence had more power if the pope himself added his seal. The Zutphen Indulgence has seals from 2 archbishops and 13 bishops. Selling indulgences was quite profitable in the middle ages and for the Rondeel nuns the indulgences proved a steady source of income.

This indulgence is beautifully illuminated, befitting the Avignon Papal palace. Below on the right we see John the Baptist holding the Lamb of God. Above right we see Christ in the middle, with Peter and Paul on either side. Top left we can see Mary with child. To Mary’s right we see a number of women kneeling, presumably the Rondeel nuns.

According to the Zutphen archives, there are no indulgences like this one in The Netherlands. So it truly is a unique example! The North Rhein-Westphalia archives in Germany has a similar indulgence from Avignon, created 3 years before this one and probably by the same scribe! That indulgence was meant for Stift Schildesche near Bielefeld.

Source: Heritage Zutphen, photo 0208-0004

One thought on “The 1336 Indulgence from Zutphen

  1. Thank you for the interesting post. It’s been years since I read of indulgences, and this was so much more specific and informative!


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