Skip to ContentSkip to Navigation
University museum
University Museum Collections Collection stories

The sceptre of the bedel

For more than four hundred years the sceptre of the bedel – literally ‘the inviter’ – has formed the heart of the academic tradition in Groningen. Dressed in his ceremonial robes, the bedel carries the sceptre out in front of the rector magnificus in the ‘cortege’, the procession of professors in robes.

During promotions, when a researcher is bestowed the title of ‘doctor’, the bedel springs into action too. He leads the professors into the auditorium, where they interview the candidate about their work. When the time has expired, he enters again, taps the floor with his sceptre and speaks the words ‘Hora Finita’: the time is up.

These days, the bedel has a ceremonial function, but that used to be quite different. Not only was he the jack-of-all-trades for the rector magnificus, but he also registered new students, opened and closed the doors of the lecture rooms, cleaned the Academy building, waited on the professors, and acted as warder of the academic prison.

Not all bedels were equally good at their jobs. In 1689 bedel Johan Becherer was fined because he gossiped about professors and had ‘brothel discourses’ with students. He even stabled goats in the attic of the Academy Building.

This sceptre was made in 1615 and was carried by the first bedel of the University of Groningen. Nowadays, when a sceptre is needed, usually one of the two reliable replicas is used. However, every once in a while even this sceptre is taken out of its display, when several ceremonies take place at the same time, for example.
Last modified:13 August 2021 3.33 p.m.
View this page in: Nederlands