Hard cash in the church

(Source: Nieuwsblad Steden Driehoek, 14 February 2018)

During recent archaeological  on-site research in Zutphen’s St. Walburgis Church, a large number of coins from the 1400-1830 period has been found. The find numbered more than 250 coins, 150 of which dating from the 1450-1550 period. All coins are in an immaculate condition, and can be admired in the church after completion of the current reconstruction work, and later in the Musea Zutphen, it is expected.

In those days the church was still a catholic church, filled with altars and chapels of religious guilds (known as vicariates). Some small amounts of coins have been found where altars once stood. These are the so-called treasures of accumulation, being an amount of coins that have been found together but that have not necessarily been buried or lost collectively. These coins may have dropped behind the altarpiece, for example. Coins from the 1600-1830 period usually ended underground as offertory money having been lost in the days when it was a Protestant church. In those days people were still buried inside the church, thus making many coins “disappear” into the soil. Coins were also laid on the eye sockets of a dead person, an old custom dating back from antiquity.

Although exact identification and determination of the coins has not yet been completed, it is obvious the find includes many rare as well as new coins. Besides known silver coins from Gelderland and Overijssel cities, the find probably also includes coins struck by St. Walburgis Church itself. Around 1500, the Church had the right to strike small change meant for ritual use, allowing poor citizens to participate in various rituals. Issuing small change to the poor allowed them, on their turn, to donate money to the guilds that they belonged to. In other words, the Church itself met with that demand for small change. In those days a large mediaeval church like St. Walburgis Church was very much like a religious fair. People from all professional and social groups were members of religious guilds. The main altar was devoted to Maria, the town’s patron saint. The chapter (convent church) was devoted to Walburgis.

Other find

Of the chapter part, the tuff walls belonging to the crypt (the chapel of the dead underneath the main choir) have been discovered, This has also been a find of great significance, particularly since it dates from the very first building stage of the church. Meanwhile more information about this church from 1100 has become available. For example, the actual appearance of the church differs considerably from what was originally anticipated. The walls date from about 1100 when, ordered to do so by the Archbishop of Utrecht, Count Otto van Zutphen had (a part of) the church rebuilt. And according to Mr. René Sueters, Zutphen’s Alderman for Culture, Heritage and Archaeology, “this is another beautiful find that emphasizes the richness of cultural heritage in Zutphen. As a city council we will do everything to show and share the finds and tales from our past. And again we succeeded in doing that with this find”.

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