As well as the Moon Extinguishers (see previous post) the flags flying over the centre of Mechelen also show Opsinjoorke in flight:
The bronze statue in front of the Town Hall shows Opsinjoorke in full flight. The original doll was made in 1647. It is carried in ceremonial and religious processions and thrown into the air by means of a large linen cloth. It was originally called Sotscop or Foul Bridegroom, a reference to inebriated husbands who maltreated their wives. Divorce was absolutely forbidden in those days, and so the doll was symbolically punished (thrown into the air) for the sins of these men.
The doll acquired its current name on July 4th 1775 when, during a religious procession, the doll went beyond the reach of the cloth and landed among the crowd. An onlooker from Antwerp put out his arms to ward off the doll, but was accused of trying to steal the Sotscop. After receiving a sound thrashing from the patriotic people of Mechelen, he sent a letter of protest to the Mechelen magistrate pleading his innocence. From then on Sotscop became known as Opsinjoorke, ’sinjoor’ being the nickname of the people of Antwerp!
The people of Mechelen are sometime nicknamed Maneblussers (Moon Extinguishers):
On the night of January 27th/28th 1687 St Rumbold’s Tower was shrouded in mist. A none too sober tippler emerged from an inn on the Grote Markt. He suddenly saw that the tower was on fire and immediately raised the alarm.
The whole city was thrown into confusion, the alarm bell was sounded and the city council led by the burgomaster lost no time in organizing the fire-fighting operation. Buckets of water went from hand to hand in a chain up the tower stairway, but even before they reached the top, the moon slipped through the haze and the glow disappeared…
Little had the brave citizens realized that the reddish misty glow they were trying to extinguish was the moon!
Of course the people of Mechelen tried to keep the incident quiet, but the news soon spread abroad, earning the people of Mechelen the nickname Maneblussers (Moon Extinguishers) – a nickname they bear to this day.
…Fortresses of the Albigensian Crusade 1209 – 1300
During the early 13th century the north of what is now France went to war with the south in a bloody crusade aimed at destroying the heretical sect know as the Cathars. The conflict was characterized by vicious guerrilla actions and the besieging of the innumerable fortified sites that dotted the landscaped of the south. Illustrated with full colour artwork and stunning photographs, this book describes the castle and the fortifications of the Cathar period, examining their design, construction and the role that they played during the Albigensian Crusade.
The book gives a concise overview of the political and religious history of the time and how the tensions led to the Albigensian Crusade. It then moves on to the Castles as featured in the title. The book details the design and development of the fortifications along with the history of the sites and where they were located. The book goes into further detail describing the sites when they were at war and what happened afterwards.
The final chapter provides information on ‘visiting the sites today’, it gives brief details of the major sites, their opening times and where to find out more information about them.
The book has many photographs and illustrations in both colour and monochrome which enrich the text.
I found the book informative and concise. It left me wanting to find out more about the fortifications that played such a big part in the Albigensian Crusade.
For my birthday I had been given a copy of Bradshaw’s Handbook and found the descriptions of the towns quite delightful. So with a book voucher I received for Christmas I treated myself to Bradshaw’s Continental Railway Guide.
I looked up Mechelen within it’s pages and found that in 1913 when the book was published the town was listed by it’s French name Malines. This is what Bradshaw had to say about the town:
An old town on the River Dyle, with broad streets, in some respects picturesque but with dull and squalid quarters.
The guide then goes on to describe some notable architecture and art.
The 2013 edition of the Eyewitness Travel Guide to Belgium and Luxembourg describes Mechelen in a more favorable light:
Leveun and Mechelen are beautiful medieval towns, with outstanding architectural treasures. (p142)
The historic city of Mechelen, on the River Dijle has exceptional charm. (p157)
I found the city picturesque with exceptional charm, outstanding architectural treasures and artworks. Currently several of the buildings are under renovation which means that some of the buildings are obscured by scaffolding.
It seems that Mechelen/Malines has changed little in character over the 100 years since Bradshaw shared his views on Malines.