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Anglo-Saxons in the Low Countries: Adelbertusakker, Egmond

During the early Middle Ages, several Anglo-Saxons made their way to what is now the Low Countries, as missionaries, pilgrims, mercenaries and refugees. On this blog, I will regularly shed light on places in The Netherlands and Belgium associated with these visitors from early medieval England. This post focuses on the Anglo-Saxon saint Adalbert of Egmond (Feast day: 25 June) and the site where he had once been buried: Adelbertusakker, Egmond.

Adalbert of Egmond (d. c.740)

Shrine devoted to Adalbert of Egmond. Adelbertusakker, Egmond

Shrine devoted to Adalbert of Egmond. Adelbertusakker, Egmond

According to our earliest source about Adalbert of Egmond, the tenth-century Vita Sancti Adelberti, Adalbert was born in Northumbria and came to Frisia as one of the companions of the missionary St. Willibrord (d. 739). Adalbert concentrated his efforts in preaching the Gospel to the area around present-day Egmond, North-Holland. He was beloved by the locals, who erected a little wooden chapel in his honour at the site of his grave. Soon after his death in c.740, miracles started to take place: a widow who had prayed to the saint received her daily bread with the incoming tide, marauding Vikings who had their eyes set on Egmond were deceived by miraculously appearing mists and a man who stole some cheese offered to Adalbert ate both the cheese and his fingers. (You can read the Vita Sancti Adalberti here)

In the tenth century, Adalbert visited the nun Wilfsit three times in a dream and told her that his bones should be exhumed and translated to her nunnery in Hallem (present-day Egmond-Binnen). Wilfsit contacted Count Dirk I of Holland (d. 939), who had the church demolished and Adalbert’s bones dug up. As they did so, water welled up along with the saintly bones and a well was established on the site. Ever since, this well has been a holy place and has been visited by various pilgrims, among whom the blind Anglo-Saxon Folmar, whose sight was restored by drinking water from the well of Adalbertus. A thousand years later, water can still be drunk from the well…

Adelbertusakker, Egmond

Blog.Adalbertus2jpg

Wooden carvings of Dirk Schuit, Count Dirk II and St Adalbert. Adelbertusakker, Egmond

Upon entering the Adelbertusakker (Google Maps location here), you are greeted by three life-size wooden carvings: Dirk Schuit (a man who lived there in the 19th century), Count Dirk II of Holland and St Adalbert. Walking a little further up field, you’ll find trees, benches to sit on, a shrine devoted to St Adalbert and, on the ground, the outlines of where from 1152 to 1573 a stone church had stood. The centrepiece of the field, however, is Adalbert’s well, which is still fully functional.

Adelbertusakker, Egmond. Left: Outlines of late medieval stone church; Right: Well of Adalbert.

Adelbertusakker, Egmond. Left: Outlines of late medieval stone church; Right: Well of Adalbert.

Pug and Beer: The latest miracle of Adalbert

Breca the Pug and the well of Adalbert.

Breca the Pug and the well of Adalbert.

Water from the well can still be drunk and, according to some, it has retained its medieval miraculous powers. In the 18th century, in particular, water from the well was used to heal cows and other livestock. Needless to say, my pug Breca had her fill as well (and she is still in good health today!).

Adalbert's latest miracle: Beer.

Adalbert’s latest miracle: Beer.

Interestingly, a nearby abbey (named after Saint Adalbert; I will devote another blog to this in the future) uses water from the well to brew its own beer. The beer is entitled ‘Sancti Adalberti Miraculum Novum’: the latest miracle of Saint Adalbert.

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5 Comments

  1. Jodie Mann says:

    So being an expat goes back a long way 😉 Thanks for a lovely post. I look forward to reading about many more of these sites!

    Like

  2. Chris Monk says:

    Great subject and a lovely post, Thijs. Who’d have thought that a dead saint’s bones could impart such a wonderful flavour? 😉

    Like

  3. […] This was part two of an ongoing series of blogs on the adventures of the Anglo-Saxons on the other side of the North Sea; you can read the first part here: Anglo-Saxons in the Low Countries: Adelbertusakker, Egmond […]

    Liked by 1 person

  4. […] I may have enjoyed the second part of the exhibition even more than the first. This part dealt with the Nachleben of Boniface – his afterlife. After the Middle Ages, people generally seem to have forgotten about Boniface (apart from some local cults), even though he was the patron saint of brewers, tailors, bookshop keepers, traders and vile makers! However, the Anglo-Saxon saint made a comeback at the end of the nineteenth century. Specifically, German nationalism adopted Boniface as the ‘Apostle of the Germans’; monuments and events in honour of Boniface also celebrated German nationhood. More recently, the Anglo-Saxon saint was adopted for more commercial means. The exhibition showed a Boniface cigar box, Boniface delftware plates, Boniface mints and even a Boniface USB stick! Naturally, the patron saint of brewers also has his own brand of beers: Boniface beer! (Note: Boniface wasn’t the only Anglo-Saxon missionary to be celebrated in beer, see this blog) […]

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  5. […] known as the Adelbertusakker, was a site for many miracles (see this blog for more information: Anglo-Saxons in the Low Countries: Adelbertusakker, Egmond). At the Adelbertusakker, you will find a shrine devoted to St Adalbert and, on the ground, the […]

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