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July 2014 - Adriaen Cornelis Clayssenzoon, 1524,

Onze-Lieve-Vrouwekerk, Kapelle (Zeeland, Netherlands)

This month’s feature is one of the magnificent early-sixteenth-century incised slabs in the church of Our Lady in Kapelle, a small town east of Goes on the peninsula of Zuid-Beveland (province of Zeeland). The town owes its name to the early medieval chapel that belonged to the castle of the lords of Maalstede. This chapel developed into one of the largest parish churches in Zeeland: the parish was founded some time between 1216 and 1248. The oldest part of the present church is the south choir, which dates from the first quarter of the fourteenth century. In 1503 a chapter was founded in Kapelle, making this a collegiate church.


The church still houses forty-four incised slabs of varying sizes, the oldest dating from the fifteenth century and the youngest from 1619. The majority date from the first half of the sixteenth century, however, among which is the memorial to Adriaen Cornelis Clayssenzoon, who died in 1524. The slab measures 158 x 85 cm. It would originally have been located on the floor but was moved in 1894 to its current vertical position against the south wall in the south aisle of the nave. It has suffered some losses along the edges, but the inscription and the central image are still clearly legible.


The corners of the slab feature the usual quatrefoils with the evangelist symbols that we find on many blue hardstone tombstones imported from Flanders in this period. The incised Dutch inscription in Gothic textualis along the edge of the slab reads:


Hier leit begr(aven) / Adriaen Cornelis claijssen sone die Sterf / an(n)o xvc xxiiii / den xxiiiten dach septe(m)ber. God heb de ziele.


(Trans.: Here lies buried Adriaen Cornelis Clayssenzoon, who died in the year 1524 on the 23rd day of September. God have the soul.)


Adriaen was a cloth manufacturer but he did not live in Kapelle. He was instead a prominent resident of the nearby village of Biezelinge and also one of the leaders of a local campaign during the period 1504-08 to make Biezelinge into an independent parish; this was in reaction to the foundation of the chapter in Kapelle. Consequently Adriaen was arrested and imprisoned in Mechelen (or Malines) in Flanders along with five other campaigners. Although subsequently released, the (temporary) closure of the church in Biezelinge at the time of his death meant that Adriaen had to be buried in Kapelle instead.

Adriaen Cornelis Clayssenzoon, 1524, Kapelle

Photo: Chris Booms on behalf of the

Rijksdienst voor het Cultureel Erfgoed (RCE).

The incised figure on the slab shows a man in armour, his face beardless and his curly hair covered with a stylish Renaissance bonnet. He holds a raised sword in his gloved right hand and an anvil in his left. A lion crouches behind him on the floor, its tail curling up on the left. This figure does not represent Adriaen himself, but his name saint, St Adrian (or Hadrian) of Nicomedia. According to the popular account Adrian was a member of Emperor Galerius Maximian’s Herculian Guard, who spontaneously converted to Christianity when impressed by the faith shown by a band of Christians under torture. Thereupon he was himself thrown into prison where his young Christian wife Natalia visited him disguised as a boy. He was eventually martyred at Nicomedia on 4 March 306; the anvil refers to his legs being crushed on an anvil. In reality there may have been two martyrs of that name at Nicomedia under two different emperors. In the Catholic church the feast of St Adrian is celebrated on 8 September. As a military saint he was particularly revered in Flanders, Germany and northern France; he was also venerated as a protector against the plague and epilepsy, and is now a patron saint of butchers, guards, soldiers and – less creditably – arms dealers.


It is not unusual to find name saints on pre-Reformation memorial slabs in this region, nor is the slab in Kapelle the only one to feature St Adrian. Frank Greenhill mentions his presence on the memorial to the priest Adriaen Van Pollinchove (d. 1557) in the church of St Basil in Bruges. Another contemporary example in Zeeland is the lost slab to Adriaen Adriaense Duerniet (d. 1538), sheriff of Kapelle and Biezelinge on behalf of local lord Jan van Kruiningen, which is known through an antiquarian drawing of c.1780 now in the collection of the Zeeuws Archief in Middelburg. Here the saint is shown in a similar pose and with the same attributes, but in civilian clothes instead of armour.

Adriaen Adriaense Duerniet (d. 1538), sheriff of

Kapelle and Biezelinge on behalf of local lord

Jan van Kruiningen

(Zeeuws Archief, Middelburg

The incised slab at Kapelle and other extant Dutch pre-Reformation monuments are described in the database of the Medieval Memoria Online (MeMO) project, which is available at http://memo.hum.uu.nl/database/index.html. Antiquarian drawings of medieval memorials can be searched online at www.zeeuwsarchief.nl.

See also:

F.A. Greenhill, Incised effigial slabs. A study of engraved stone memorials in Latin Christendom, c. 1100 to c. 1700, 2 vols (London, Thames & Hudson, 1976), 2 vols.

G.J. Lepoeter, De geheimen van de kerk van Kapelle onthuld: van Onze-Lieve-Vrouwekerk tot huis voor het Woord (Goes, Heemkundige kring de Bevelanden, 1996).

S. Oosterwijk, ‘Death or Resurrection? The iconography of two sixteenth-century incised slabs in Oudelande (Zeeland) and other Netherlandish shroud effigies’, Church Monuments, 28 (2013), 52-77.

H. Tummers, ‘Medieval effigial monuments in the Netherlands’, Church Monuments, 7 (1992), 19-33.

Copyright: Dr Sophie Oosterwijk FSA