Relabeling Mary. The city of Brussels, Our Lady of Grace and the Carthusian convent of Scheut (mid-15th century)
Seminar by Lianne van Beek, PhD candidate, Department of History
Venue: 10th of December from 16.00 till 17.30 in room A7(Academy Building)
Pentecost 1449. The city of Brussels experiences it’s yearly culmination of Marian devotion. It has organized a lavish procession (the ‘Ommegang’) focussing on the statue of Our Lady of the Sablon, followed by a play especially written for this occasion. Thousands of people have flocked to the city. A considerable number of them have passed a simple Marian shrine situated next to one of the main roads to Brussels, at a place just outside the city walls known as Scheut. Suddenly this roadside Madonna starts radiating a miraculous light. A curious crowd rushes to Scheut. The small statue of the Virgin (Our Lady of Grace) turns out to be able to perform all kinds of miracles. Soon pilgrims start to arrive from the whole of Brabant and beyond. As most of them don’t have a better place to be, considering the harsh political and economic circumstances of the period, they decide to stay in Scheut and use it as a campsite.
The Brussels magistrate is faced with a huge problem: some time before Brussels had got to know the power of the lower classes the hard way during an uprising, and the magistrate wants to prevent new problems. Ecclesiastical authorities squabble among themselves about the responsibility and don’t take action. The city of Brussels, in a unique move, decides to intervene. Playing its cards masterfully, the city manages to divert the new devotion and put it to its own use.