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Six hundred children step into a church time capsule

02 June 2014

Some six hundred primary school children from in and around the city of Groningen today travelled back in time to the 15th, 16th and 17th centuries. Assistant Professor of the Art History of Christianity, Dr Justin Kroesen, was their guide. In a lecture for the Children’s University, Kroesen told them about the numerous churches dotted around the province. The red bricks conceal a wealth of exciting stories: about Onno the Knight , the Van Starkenborgh family and the opulent Anna van Ewsum. Kroesen: ‘The churches of Groningen are veritable time capsules.’

Children's University
Children's University

During his lecture, Kroesen used stories about the churches to illustrate the history buried in these age-old places. Kroesen: ‘There are a staggering 105 old churches in the province of Groningen. That’s more than in any other province. You come across them around practically every corner. The stories concealed in these churches take us on an exciting journey through time, like being in a time machine.’

Very hungry caterpillar

Kroesen gave three lectures, and took some six hundred upper primary school children on a journey through time. First of all, there was Onno the Knight, who embarked on a voyage to the Holy Land until fate struck in the shape of the River Jordan. His companion Albert was carried away by the strong current. He also told the story of the Van Starkenborghs, a family that went on a rampage in the churches of Groningen during the Iconoclastic Fury . Kroesen: ‘The Van Starkenborghs were like Eric Carle’s very hungry caterpillar. Although already very wealthy, they saw an opportunity to add to their fortune and gain more authority in the village by stealing the churches’ treasures.’

Sky box in the church

But the Van Starkenborghs were not the only rich family in the area. Anna van Ewsum also belonged to a family of great standing. In fact they were so rich that they sat in their own box pew in the local Midwolde Church, higher than the minister himself. Kroesen: ‘They looked down on the minister and the ordinary villagers. It was like having a sky box in the church. And what about the coats of arms they collected on the walls of the church? They’re not much different from your friends’ gallery on Facebook when you think about it!’

Three anniversaries

Kroesen’s lectures marked three different anniversaries for the Children’s University. It is exactly ten years since the very first children’s lecture, when Prof. Peter Barthel gave a lecture about the moon. The children’s lecture also coincides with the University of Groningen’s 400th anniversary celebrations (For Infinity), and the 45th anniversary of a partner organization, the Old Groningen Churches Foundation.

Last modified:17 September 2021 11.14 a.m.
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