Hoorn's historic centre is rich in old buildings carrying decorative
wall panels and carving, many of which are based on religious stories
and texts. Chris Schrickx, born and bred in Hoorn has inventoried
these and has compiled a walk along these remarkable bas-reliefs and
statues. This route takes you through much of Hoorn's historic old
centre and harbour area.
Whereas the other town walks organised by the Vereniging Oud Hoorn are guided tours,this is one you can do in your own time with the help of the text and route map.
Time: approx. 90 min
Starting point: Vereniging Oud Hoorn club building "Oost-Indisch Pakhuis
Onder de Boompjes 22, Hoorn
Click here to print the route map and text. Use this when you want to do the walk yourself.
Click on "Next" to follow all, or part of, the route from behind your p.c.; or to get an idea of what you will see when you actually walk it.
We turn Left into the Pakhuisstraat, then go 1st Left, crossing over to take the pedestrian path over the old town's defence dyke. In the wall on your left you will have a good view of two 17th century gateways once used by Hoorn's civic watch. The stone tablet above the first entrance shows St.Joris ( St.George) slaying the dragon.
Saint Joris gateway (patron saint of the S.Joris Bowmen ).The S.Joris club of crossbow or foot-bow men was the oldest of the two civic watch guilds.
Saint Joris , better known as Saint George, is a legendary soldier saint and martyr. He was born in Kappadocia (a region in Asia minor). In about the year 303, during the time of the persecution of the Christians in Palestine under Caesar Diocletian. S. Joris, together with other Christians, suffered death through torture.
He is renowned for the episode in his life in which he fights and kills the dragon. For the early Christians the dragon was a symbol of heathenism, and slaying the dragon with a lance symbolised the conversion of a heathen land to Christianity. In later centuries the original was no longer understood and was passed down as a legend from ancient times. S.George, like Perseus, had fought the dragon in order to save the sacrificed Princess. At that time there was a land in the grip of a dragon, the inhabitants had to sacrifice two sheep a day to keep him tranquil. When the last sheep had been devoured the dragon demanded human sacrifice, starting with the King's daughter. The Princess, dressed in bridal finery, went out to meet her death but was saved by S.George who attacked the dragon, piercing him with his lance. He then promised to kill the dragon if all would consent to being baptised by him. The King and all his subjects gratefully agreed, S.George killed the monster and 15000 people were given Christian baptism.
In 305 S.George was arrested by the state persecutors of the early Christians, he was tortured on the rack and drenched in quick lime but miraculously suffered no harm. Caesar' s wife was so impressed by this that she underwent baptism and accompanied S.George to the tower on the town wall where they were both beheaded. This is said to have taken place in the Promised Land.
S.George is usually depicted as a knight on horseback, piercing the dragon with his lance. The vanquished dragon is often shown lying at his feet. Other scenes of this medieval legend are sometimes seen.
Patron Saint of: farmers, coopers, saddlers, soldiers, prisoners,
horsemen, cattle, all types of conflict etc.
Patron Saint protecting against: threat of war, temptations, fever, pest.
Patron Saint for: the weather
Helper of those in need.
S.George's day: 23 April
Saint Sebastian's Gateway
Little is known of S.Sebastian's life, however numerous legends surround this remarkable man. Born in Milan he was brought up in a Christian family and his aim in life was to help those Christians persecuted for their belief. He served in the armies of Caesar Carinus (283-285) and Caesar Diocletian (284-305) under whose rule state persecution of the Christians flared up again. When Diocletian learnt that his exemplary soldier Sebastianus was a Christian he had him bound to a stake, pierced with arrows and finally flogged to death. In one legend Irene, a young widow, was about to take down the soldier's body and give it burial when she discovered he still lived.
Sebastianus sought out Caesar after his miraculous recovery and openly accused him of criminal persecution of the Christians. Caesar then had him arrested and ordered him to be beaten to death by his fellow soldiers in the arena. This is said to have taken place on January 20 in the year 288. His body was removed from the arena by Lucinda, a devout Christian, and buried at the Apostle Basilica on the Via Apia. In the 9th century S.Sebastian was made titular or patron saint of this church.
Patron Saint of: the dying, soldiers, war wounded, ironmongers,
potters, tinsmiths, tanners, gardeners, also of water sources.
Patron Saint protecting against: the pest, leprosy and diseases in cattle.
Helper in need.
We continue over the old town wall passing the Mariatoren , a former arsenal, walk over the bridge R., and the zebra crossing, stopping before the railway crossing to look at two wall panels on the house opposite.
Koepoortsweg nr. 5 (anno 1648) The Koepoortsweg was once an important road leading into the town with on the site of the bridge a town gate, the Koepoort or Cattle Bridge. The wall panels we see here were probably a kind of promotion for Hoorn's markets.
Saint Laurence (patron saint of the August Markets, first recorded in 1485)
Laurentius, or Laurence, is said to be Spanish-born but to have grown up in Italy. He became Archdeacon to Pope Sixtus II in Rome. Under Caesar Valerianus there was once again state persecution of the Christian church and the Pope and Laurence,together with the other archdeacons, were imprisoned. All except Laurence were to be executed, he was to be questioned under torture. Laurence regarded Pope Sixtus not only as his superior but also as a fatherly friend and moreover as his example.
According to the legend Laurence accompanied Pope Sixtus to the place of execution weeping and calling "Where are you going without your son? ". The Pope comforted him and predicted his coming martyrdom. He told Laurence to distribute all the church treasure among the needy. However after the Pope's execution Caesar Valerianus demanded the treasure as his right, giving Laurence three days in which to comply. Laurence spent the given time distributing the treasure to impoverished Romans, on the third day he assembled all the poor and needy before Caesar saying "here is the whole treasure of the Christian church".
Caesar Valerianus was so furious that he had Laurence arrested and condemned to death by flogging with lead pellets and being slowly roasted on a rack S.Laurence died on August 10 in the year 258.
S. Laurence is buried together with archdeacon Stefanus in the basilica San Lorenzo (near the Via Tiburtina) originally erected by Constantine the Great By the 4th century Saint Laurence was worshipped throughout Christendom, he is the third patron saint of Rome.
Patron Saint of: the poor, archdeacons, librarians, glass blowers, glaziers, firemen, cooks, archivists, pupils, students, administrators, brewers, cake bakers, washerwomen.
Patron Saint protecting against: skin diseases, eye ailments, back problems, fire, the pest and suffering in purgatory.
Patron Saint for: souls in purgatory, good wine year.
Saint Martin (patron saint of the autumn market, approved by Philips the Good in 1446)
Martinus, or Martin, was born in Sabria, Hungary in 316; at the age of ten he was admitted into the church as catechumen or novice. He later became a soldier and served under the Caesars Constantinus and Julian. At the age of eighteen he was baptized.
According to the legend he saw a naked beggar at the town gate crying, " give me alms, for the love of God!" Martin had only his sword with him but used this to cut away half of his military cloak and give it to the man. In those times a soldier's uniform belonged half to Caesar, half to the wearer.
That same evening Martin dreamt that Christ, with the half cloak wrapped around Him, spoke to him saying, "What you have done for the least of my brethren, you have done for Me". Martin was then decided, he travelled to Poitiers where the Bishop S.Hilary became his teacher and example, under his tutorage he lived as a monk and was ordained exorcist or devil expeller.
When ordained priest Martin undertook missionary work in his homeland, his mother is said to have been his first convert, however he was driven out of the region by the anger of the Arians and the heathens. Disappointed Martin went to the island Gallinara where he lived as a hermit for some years, fulfilling a life-long desire. In 360 Bishop Hilary recalled him to Gaul, there he built a hermit's cell where he lived for many years. This would later develop into the first monastery in Gaul.
In 372 Martin was elected Bishop of Tours by the clergy and the inhabitants, he founded a monastery there and lived an exceptionally humble and holy life. Friend and biographer Sulpicius Severus frequently witnessed the miracles performed by Bishop Martin. With great devotion he preached the Gospel throughout the region and combating the heathenism practised there. His exemplary life and his justice made him loved and revered, he died at the age of 80 on November 11, 398.
In some regions there are still bonfires and children go from door to door "begging "for sweets on Saint Martin's Eve.
Patron Saint of: soldiers, horse guards, horse riders, shoe-smiths, tanners, weavers, the poor, beggars, millers, leather workers, tailors, hatters, travellers, inn-keepers, prisoners, wardens, shepherds, wine-makers and teetotallers.
Patron Saint protecting against: erysipelas, skin rashes, snake bite
Patron Saint for: a good wine harvest.
(Claas Stapelhof ) Here on the north side of the Munnickenveld (Monk's field) we see the old courtyard of the Claas Stapelhof almshouses, the gateway was once the entrance to the former Latin School in the Kruisstraat. Above the gate is a horn. The emblem of the town Hoorn, below it the text: Christo Duce et auspice Christo Caelo Musa Beat (Christ as guide, with the blessing of Christ the muses bring celestial happiness).The latter part of the text is taken from Horatius (Carmina IV.8.29) as studied at the Latin School , the whole text reflects the Christian and the Latin elements of the teaching at that time.
Above the doors of the houses on the left is a carved stone representation of Judith and her handmaid about to decapitate the drunken Holofemes.
Judith and Holofemes (apocryphal legend told in the Book of Judith)
Judith was a Jewish heroine and is iconic for the Jews' fight against their persecution. She is commonly depicted triumphantly holding aloft the head of Holofemes.
In the Old Testament story in the Book of Judith the Jewish town of Betulia was under siege by the Assyrian army commanded by Holofemes. The inhabitants were about to surrender when Judith, a rich and attractive widow thought up a plan. She exchanged her widow's weeds for splendid bridal garments and together with her handmaid secretly penetrated the Assyrian camp .She tricked the soldiers into letting her through to Holofemes .She told him she had a cunning plan for defeat of the Jews, the Commander was so dazzled by her beauty that he invited her to the banquet that evening, when he intended to seduce her. However she encouraged him to drink heavily and when they were alone after the banquet he fell into a drunken stupor. Judith wept and prayed and then beheaded him, using his own sword. Judith and her maid escaped back into Betulya carrying the severed head in a bag.
Judith is depicted in medieval times as a pre-figuration of the Virgin Mary, conquering evil and with links to the allegorical figure Humility. Judith's story is sometimes part of a series of legends about (biblical) women who defeat men through a ruse.
In renaissance art the gory legend was a popular subject. In the contra-reformation period it was depicted as the defeat of sin.
The figure of Saint Petrus, Saint Peter, stands above the doorway (1617)
This was the entrance to the former monastery; the building became town property in 1572 and was converted into an old people's home.
In Jerusalem Peter had become a prominent defender of the Christian faith. First known as Simon, he had lived in Kafamaum (Israel) earning his living as a fisherman. Jesus appointed Simon and his brother Andrew his Apostles. Jesus said to Simon "Thou art Peter, and it is upon this rock that I will build my church". He appointed him his first disciple and Head of the Church i.e. the first Pope. The Church in Jerusalem grew rapidly as a result of the miracles Peter was able to perform through Jesus. He became a fervent preacher and undertook missionary journeys to Antioch and Asia Minor, finally travelling to Rome during the rule of Caesar Nero. At that time Rome had become the centre of the known world, and it was from here that Peter wanted to proclaim to all men the belief in a resurrected Christ.
Nero wanted to put a stop to this, he had Peter arrested and condemned him to crucifixion.. Peter calmly accepted his fate only asking to die as his Master had done but upside down (he had denied Christ three times during his imprisonment and was therefore unworthy of a Christ- like crucifixion). Nero complied with his request, Saint Peter died in the roman arena in 67 (?).
Patron Saint of: Popes, butchers, glaziers, furniture makers, watchmakers, lock-smiths, plumbers. smiths, potters, bricklayers, brick makers, stonemasons, netters, fishermen, ships crew, the shipwrecked, those doing penance, confessants, virgins.
Patron Saint protecting against: theft, snakebite, rabies, fever, foot ailments, being possessed of the devil.
Saint Peter is frequently portrayed with a key (the key to the gate of Heaven).
We go Left and then Right to walk along the imposing façade of the Pietershof. We come into the Veemarkt (cattle market) and cross over to look at nr.19, a white house next to the Rabo Bank with an interesting stone, wall tablet.
House number 19 Anno MDCCXXIII
On the tablet it says:
Synte Pieters Scheepye mag hellen maar niet vergaen op Gods woort blyf ick vast staen.
St. Peter's ship may list but not founder, on God's word I remain steadfast (I put my trust).
This building was once a nunnery but was later used for market storage.
An hourglass, a candle still burning, a skeleton, the coffin : these are all symbols of 'momento mori', reflect on death).
The centre door is in Empire style, dating from the early 19th C. The stone carving above, with the date 1647 shows a skeleton with a scythe, hourglass and ears of wheat and the words 'En Messem Immortalitatis" meaning 'see here the harvest of immortality'. In other words the comfortably off, worthy burger does not die but lives on in a changed form. We see him here as complete skeleton, reclining on a mat and supported with a cushion. The corn harvested with the scythe symbolises the harvest of immortality. The hour- glass is upright i.e. the sand (life) is still running through.
The south entrance just around the corner has a cartouche in the arch with the inscription: Hic Meta Doloris (here ends all suffering). The corpses of paupers were carried into the church via the side- door, their suffering has ended, we see the hourglass on its side (time has run out)and the skeleton is incomplete.
Inside the church we look at a carved panel in the choir screen dividing the church, the door leads through to the former choir, later pauper chapel. On the front of the screen, on either side of the town coat-of arms, we read": "Heed the Word"; on the choir side we see "Hear the Word".
"Here stood the young Tobias"
The tablet shows Tobias catching a fish. An angel watches from above.
According to the Old Testament legend Tobias' father Tobit had been blinded having got bird droppings in his eyes. Also he had lent out some money and Tobias had travel far to collect it. One day during the journey the angel Rafael appeared to Tobias, he points the way and is there when Tobias catches a large fish. He tells him to take the heart, the liver and the gall-bladder home and use the gall to cure Tobit's blindness.
Tobit, his wife Anna and his young son Tobias were devout Christians. They thanked God for sending his angel and for Tobit's miraculous return to sight. All three lived to a great age, Tobias lived to be one hundred and twenty-seven!
The 'ramen' were the racks formerly used to dry the felted wool that had been rinsed in the canal. which used to run down the middle of the street. We cross what is now a pleasant avenue to look at the rococo façade of the Lutheran Church (1768).
In the painted panel above the entrance there is the inscription 'How blessed art thy dwelling-places, O Lord Zebaoth!' ( Psalms 83.v.4).
In the Knox translation of the N. Testament this reads: Lord of Hosts, how I love thy dwelling place.
- Beeld van Jezus
Koepel kerk, St. Cyriacus and St. Franciscus church, built in 1882.
The Statue of Jesus giving the blessing.
If the church is open you should certainly go in to see in the newly renovated 19th C. interior and the beautiful medieval Pieta.
Continuing down the Grote Noord, we cross Hoorn's historic square, the Rode Steen, and walk through the pedestrian lane on the far side (Grote Havensteeg) to come into the harbour district. Turning Right and then sharp Left (Vismarkt) we go 1st Right into the Pompsteeg, a narrow lane leading into the Italiaanse Zeedijk. At the end of this street we see our next stop, the distinctive silhouette of the Hoofdtoren. This former harbour fort, together with the adjoining wooden landing stage determines the historic character in this picturesque area.
The harbour tower is now owned by the Vereniging Hendrick de Keizer and is undergoing restoration.
Two Biblical texts are to be read on these massive walls:
Make your way through the narrow gate (Mathew chap.7 v.13)
Give to Caesar what is Caesar's and to God what is God's (Luke chap.20).
The Knox translation of Mathew 7,v. 13-14 reads
Make your way by the narrow gate, it is a broad gate and a wide road that leads to perdition, and those who go in that way are many indeed; but how small is the gate, how narrow the road that leads on to life, and how few there are that find it.
And Luke 20,v.20-26
And, so watching for their opportunity, they sent agents of their own, who pretended to be men of honest purpose, to fasten on his words; then they would hand him over to the supreme authority of the governor. These put a question to him; Master, they said, we know thou art direct in thy talk and thy teaching; thou makest no distinction between man and man, but teachest the way of God in all sincerity. Is it right that we should pay tribute to Caesar, or not?
And he, aware of their malice, said to them, Why do you thus put me to the test? Shew me a silver piece. Whose likeness, whose name does it bear inscribed on it? When they answered, Caesar's, he told them, Why then, give back to Caesar what is Caesar's, and to God what is God's. And they said no more; they were full of admiration at his answer, finding no means of discrediting his words in the eyes of the people.
We walk along the Veermanskade (Ferryman's Quay) crossing the white drawbridge and continuing along the Doelenkade and around the bend of the Slapershaven. Near the end stop to look at the unique 17th C houses on the left. These are called the 'Bossu Houses'.
These three 'Bossu Houses' have a continuous bas- relief frieze commemorating in verse and illustration the renowned Zuider Zee battle of 1573,when patriot West Frisian and Zeeland ships defeated the Spanish fleet commanded by Count Bossu. On the first house we see the mythological figure of Venus, who arose from the foam of the sea and appeared riding the waves on a shell.
In the frieze are lines by the poet Jacob Coenraetz Mayvogel:
The next house has (roughly translated) the text:
And without doubt there were those who were in the middle of it,
As were those on land who prayed to God and Moses
That men shall be victorious, and so it did take place
Where now there is not a hide or other clear sign to be seen.
The house on the corner, Grote Oost nr.132, also has lines from Mayvogel:
O praiseworthy deed O wondrous golden times,
Whoever reflects on that is still bound to rejoice,
The nation shakes and trembles at the enemy's approach,
He desires like Amelech to defeat all Israel,
He comes with mighty force but God has granted us
Both Aaron and those whose names are written.
The historic Battle of the Zuider Zee took place off the coast of Hoorn on October 12 in the year 1573. The Spanish fleet was defeated and Admiral and Governor Count Bossu taken captive. He spent three years imprisoned in the orphanage in the Korte Achterstraat (15 on the map).
At the time of the battle the turbulent 80 Year's War had started. Towns and provinces in the Netherlands were as yet not united in their struggle against Spanish domination. Amsterdam for instance chose to stay faithful to Spain. The struggle on land and sea progressed with difficulty but after the Sea Beggars took Brielle in 1572 several towns in North Holland, among them Hoorn, supported the rebellion leader William of Orange.
In North Holland the rebellion reaches its turning point in the following year. The Sea Beggars, together with the West Frisian patriots, attempt to blockade Amsterdam harbour. The Spanish Governor Count Bossu takes his fleet out to do battle with the Orange ships. The ensuing battle lasts six days and nights, the West Frisians under the command of Admiral Dirkszoon, Burgemeester of Monnickendam, were outnumbered, but through their determination and helped by fresh men and supplies from the nearby harbours, they won the day..
Standing on the bridge we can see the Latin text of Psalms 126 v.1:
nil prosunt vigilum excubiæ nihil arma, minæ que murorum ingentes raucæue tonitrua cannæ 1578 ni deus hancce velis regere ac tutarier irbem.
Nothing avails the guards watch, not weapons, not the threat of massive walls, not the thunder of heavy armoury, if Thou, O God, do not direct and protect this town
The Knox translation is rather different:
Vain is the builder's toil, if the house is not of the Lord's building; vainly the guard keeps watch, if the city has not the Lord for its guardian.
We see two wall tablets, one with the date 1613, the other with the
All cometh from God
Boterhal or St Jans Gasthuis
This former hospital is one of the best examples of early Dutch Renaissance architecture in the Netherlands. Above the stone plaque there is a niche with a statue of John the Baptist. On either side of the doors are worn fluted pillars, these were reputed to have a healing property and in earlier days people would rub these stones hoping to avert illness.
The building was in use as a hospital up to 1840, it then fell into disrepair and was used for army stores and then as butter and egg market hall, which is why it is now known as the Boterhal. It has now been fully restored and is an art gallery for local artists. If it is open take a look at the interesting interior.
John the Baptist was born about six months earlier than Jesus, his parents, Elizabeth and Zacharias, were both elderly and Elizabeth was barren. The angel Gabriel had appeared to Zacharias and had announced that Elizabeth would bear a son, and that he was to be named John.
Zacharias asked for a sign, so Gabriel then took away his power of speech saying that this would return at the birth of their son. Elizabeth did indeed give birth to a son, John, and Gabriel recovered his speech, they rejoiced and thanked God for his mercy.
When John had reached the age of about thirty he travelled into the wilderness, preaching, baptising and proclaiming the coming of the Messiah, the Lamb of God. Herod, who ruled Israel at that time, celebrated his birthday with a banquet for prominent religious, political and military leaders. Herod's daughter Salome danced before the assembly and all were dazzled by her performance. Herod impetuously said that she could ask for any reward, even half his kingdom, and it would be hers. Salome went to her mother for advice and was told to ask for the head of John the Baptist on a charger. When his daughter returned with this blood-thirsty request Herod was troubled but could not back down in front of his guests. A guard was sent to behead John in his prison cell. He returned with the severed head on a platter, Salome received it as her reward and brought it to her mother. When the apostles heard of John's execution they came for the body and gave it burial.
Because St. John had already known God before his birth and had been filled with God's Grace the Church celebrates both his birthday (June 24) and the date of his death (29 august).
Patron Saint of: weavers, tailors, painters, tanners, carpenters, smiths, coopers, chimney sweeps, inn-keepers, furriers, wine makers, architects, shepherds and their sheep, dancers, musicians, singers, those who fast, the Knights of Malta and the Carmelite Order.
Patron Saint protecting against: headache, hoarseness, dizziness, epilepsy, children's diseases, fear and hailstorms.
We first stop to look at the entrance to the Mariakapel, this was originally the chapel for the medieval cloister complex, after the Reformation it was in use as a Protestant church.
The text is taken from Colossians 1 v.10 and reads: Peace through His blood, shed on the cross
We next come to the decorative doorway to the former Protestant Orphanage, built in 1574 the doorway is from 1729.
Pause to look at the small tablet on the orphanage wall, this commemorates the capture and imprisonment of Count Bossu in 1573. The original tablet was above the door of the gatehouse prison.
Around the corner, on the canal side there is an entrance to the orphanage courtyard with its original pump and lead statues of an orphan boy and girl.
It was here that the civic guard or 'schutters' guilds had their headquarters and exercise yard for target practice.The building dates from 1615 and consists of three parts: a 1648 pillared side wall which has lost its gable top; the Hendrik de Keyzer façade with its decorative doorway of 1615 ( also missing its top); and a long section built in 1778.
The arched stone entrance is crowned with a statue group representing the martyrdom of St. Sebastian .As we noted at the start of our route (1. Achter de Vest, St. Sebastian's Gate) Saint Sebastian was the Patron Saint of the 'Schutters' or Bow-men's Guilds.
There is a small tablet in the wall with surprisingly two unicorns.
The building is now owned by the Stichting Hendrick de Keyser. This is the end of our walk,we hope you enjoyed it.