House from 1540

Here you see one of the oldest houses in Alkmaar, built in 1540, situated on Kanisstreet number 1.

A ‘kanis’ is a pedlar’s basket and because the house is situated near an old almshouse you may assume that pedlar’s went to the almshouse often to sell their items.

The façade is that of a typical medieval shop. The shutters at the bottom of the window could be used as a counter when opened. The porch roof kept customers dry in case of rain.

We are lucky the house was fully restored in 1985. Until recently it was used for a local arts club but it is now a private property.


1573 is the year my birth town Alkmaar was liberated from the Spanish oppression. The Eighty Years War, as it was also called, was the Dutch revolt against the Spanish monarch Philips II.

Because it is almost 500 years ago, I will not go into the politics of that time. Suffice it to say the Dutch just didn’t agree with Philips’ ideas…

I made an attempt at recreating the dress of a woman of those days, please read all about the process on the Alkmaar 1573 project pages. Check back often as there will be regular updates. Also, feel free to send me your questions or comments.

A 1000 year old Viking ring

Stop traveller, come sit by the fire! I have quite story for you!!

On Christmas day of the year 2019 a silver ring was found in Hoogwoud, The Netherlands. The ring dates from the 10th century and is a typical Viking ring. Viking experts believe the ring was worn as a pendant, as it is actually too large to wear on your fingers.

Look at the size of the ring in the hands of museum curator Annemarieke Willemsen. I had the privilige of meeting her a few times, she has so much knowledge!

pictures by RMO Leiden

The Museum of Antiquities in Leiden was able to purchase the ring, you can read more here. It will be on display after the modern plague has passed.

This isn’t the first Viking ring that was found in the Low Lands, as this silver ring resembles a gold ring with similar patterns, which was found in Friesland in 2009. The gold ring is on display at the Fries Museum in Leeuwarden. This museum also has some excellent Viking Stories in English you really need to listen to!

14th century house

Now that the world basically has stopped turning due to a modern ‘plague’ I feel the need to share with you pictures of one of the oldest houses in my country The Netherlands and lucky me, I live very close to it! So, just to cheer you up I am sharing these.

The house was built in 1366 and is situated in central Leiden, right next door to the American Pilgrim museum. The bottom part of the house is the oldest part, the second floor was added later, the stones as you can see are much darker.

I hope this cheers you up, if only a bit…. hang in there!

The Law Stones

There are three stones buried in the streets of Leiden, which aren’t just decoration, they actually mark the city’s medieval different districts. The stones not only function as a border between the districts, it was also the place where law was practised in public; which means that many punishments and executions were held here. The three stones all date from the 14th century.

The Blue Stone was part of the parish Rijnoever (translated Rhine Bank), on the south of the modern day city. Back then, this was a seperate town and parish. The Red Stone marked the area of Marendorp, the White stone marked area around the city’s fortified tower De Burcht.

Picture by Erfgoed Leiden

An Adorable Stronghold

During my many travels, I have visited many places, towns, cathedrals and castles. Allow me to tell you about one of those today.

I will take you to the town of Lisse, which is 25 miles south-west of Amsterdam. In the 10th century it isn’t more than a handful of farms. Lisse is near the ocean and farmers live of fish and grain that can be grown. Life isn’t bad. In the year 1182 Count Diederik V van Kleef married Margaretha van Holland, daughter of Count Floris III of Holland; the wedding took place in Lisse and after that the town grew in name and importance.

The wedding of Diederik and Margaretha was held in a wooden tower, which was later replaced. Read on! Around the year 1250 a chapel was built in the small town of Lisse.

The castle of Lisse, called ‘t Huys Dever, that I am telling you about today, was built around 1370 by or for Reinier Dever or d’Ever (*1345-+1417), a loyal subject of Duke Albrecht van Beieren. Reinier was the son of Gerard Dever and Clara van Heemstede, nobles with quite an amount of influence at the Dutch court of the Counts of Holland. Reinier married the noble lady Janna/Johanna van Leyenburch, from the town of Voorschoten. They had at least two children, one daughter and a son named Gerard. Here is the family tree, in case you are interested in medieval names.

Here is a map from 1580, the earliest map with Huis Dever.

The house D’Ever was lived in well into the 19th century after which the stronghold collapsed. In 1960 renovations started, which were completed about 10 years alter. You can now visit Huys D’Ever every afternoon. If you are ever in the area, go and knock on the door!

Golden ring from the 7th century

Dear traveller, have I got a story for you today! It is simply amazing!

Have a seat and listen.

Last year, in the year 2019, this region was tormented by the Box Tree Caterpillar and many buxus plants were destroyed because of it. It was a very sad episode for those who love gardening.

One gentleman, living in modern day Wijk bij Duurstede, decided to get rid off all his destroyed buxus plants. But then… one of the roots appeared to have something shiny attached to it….

Wijk bij Duurstede was once called Dorestad. Dorestad flourished between the 7th century and the mid-9th century. The settlement was well known for minting coins under the control of several Frankish rulers. In the 7th century, it was clear that Dorestad had the potential to become a major port. It was the meeting point for traders at the time. As a result, the Franks and the Frisians fought over control of the township. The Franks won out at the end of the 7th century and closely monitored the growth of Dorestad, which led to Dorestad’s economic expansion via international trade and the establishment of a mint in the Upper town. It is assumed that there was a toll as well as harbour fees, collected by the king’s representatives at Dorestad. Over time, many coins have been discovered in the Dorestad area, supporting the idea of rapid growth and control of the harbour as well as the presence of a mint.

Between 834 and 839, there were extensive raids by the Vikings, and sadly the town never recovered from this. First, trading slowed down and stopped entirely and the mint was closed down as well. For centuries the town didn’t amount to anything until 1270 Duurstede Castle was built and the town Wijk bij Duurstede then received city & market rights in 1300.

Fast forward to 2019, when a hobby gardener tried to replace some dead buxus plants. The gold shiny object clinging to the roots was nothing less than a 7th century ring, of which only two others are known to exist in Friesland.

The ring is 22 carats and it is possible this was a wedding ring. It is roughly 1400 years old and hopefully it will be on display in 2021 in the Dorestad Museum.

A ballad!

Hello Traveller, today I am going to be sharing with you a very old song from my region. It is called “The Ballad of Lord Halewijn” and it dates from the 1300s.

Several versions of the story of Halewijn exist. In all of them, Lord Halewijn (Halewyn) is either an evil man, a magician, a demon or a fairy lord who sings a magical song. Every woman (maiden) who hears this song is drawn towards him and goes to meet him in his forest, where he kills them.

A princess hears the song and is drawn into the forest to meet Lord Halewijn. In some versions she knows about his reputation but has a plan, in others, she is warned on her way by a white bird. She meets Halewijn and lets herself fall under his spell. Together they ride to a field of gallows where he declares his intention to kill her, but impressed by her beauty, he allows her to pick her own death. The princess chooses to be beheaded, but implores Halewijn to take off his shirt so her blood will not stain him.

Lord Halewijn lays off his sword and starts to undress, which was the princess’ plan all along. In some versions, while he is pulling his robe over his head, the cloth of the robe muffles the magical song. In other versions, as he pulls the robe over his head, he can no longer use his spellbinding gaze. Other versions have him turn his back to the princess while undressing. Whatever version however, while undressing, the princess awakens from his spell and cuts off the head of the now helpless Halewijn with a sword, either his own sword or one she brought with her.

The princess takes the head with her and triumphantly returns home. On her way back she meets Halewijn’s mother who asks her about her son. The princess then reveals to her Halewijn’s fate. In the kings castle, the head is shown all over and the tale ends with a great celebration.

Sta viator…

Sta viator, ‘stop traveller’, that is what it means… stop and stay a while in Ava’s corner. My place is the one with the warm campfire, soft sheepskins and good food. Like the big house you see on the home page, a farm dating from the 600s CE and that is where I live and where you are welcome.

Let me tell you how I got the SCA name Ava van Allecmere. Now, doesn’t that sound like a good campfire story? I was born in Alkmaar, a town about 40km north of Amsterdam. It is a very old town, the first settlement dates from the 900s CE.

In those days, Alkmaar was small and had but a few farms, which were owned by the Egmond Abbey, about 8km west. The farms and Allecmere itself were donated by Count Dirk 1 to the abbey in Egmond, this was around the year 985. In the abbey’s books you can find the following phrase (on page 68) listed under Dirk’s gifts to the abbey:

Nichilominus in villa Allecmere vocitata duas mansas, que annis singulis unam libram persolvunt, ex quibus quartam partem manse non habemus.

A rough translation tells you this says: Nevertheless, in the town of Allecmere two houses will be built , annually a fourth part of the revenue will be given (bear with me, this is a very rough translation, but you get the point right? Right!)

So, back in the day, Allecmere wasn’t much to write home about. How different it is today!

The Abbey also received annual tax payments from their tenants. A lady named Ava (on page 81) pays 10 denarios (equal to 10 pennies). I am assuming she was from another hamlet near Egmond, Wimnom, because she is listed among other folk from that place.

Hildegarda dedit pro anima sua dimidium fiertel, que iacet in Wimnon. Ava dedit terram, persolventem 10 denarios. Ivo de Wimnen dedit terram, persolventem 10 denarios, que iacet in Wimnom.

And so, that is how the persona of Ava van Allecmere came into being. Stop traveller, stay a while… and tell me about you!

Yes, a new blog!

Welcome to my new blog! For the past few weeks I have been plotting & designing and now I am ready to launch this latest brain child.

This blog will be filled with all things medieval and all things SCA, well, the SCA stuff that I do. You will find many things on this blogs, mostly:

  • tutorials
  • museum & exhibition visits

This is the first post on my new blog and the entire thing is one huge Work In Progress! I’m just getting this new blog going, so stay tuned for more. Subscribe below to get notified when I post new updates.

Tic Tac Toe, look for this in the tutorial section!