A trowel for a clandestine church

Haarlem, unidentified maker's mark, 1729

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A trowel for a clandestine church

Of typical triangular outline, the shaped upper border issuing a curved stem and canted tapering handle, the smooth surface inscribed with the text:

‘Ter gedagtenis van Jacobus Rijks en sijn huisvrouw Maria van Poelenburgh
De liefde verwint het al’


Anno 1729 den 14 julij is met dese troffel den eerste steen gelegd van de H. Roomse kerk bij de Beverwijk
God alleen de gloria’

Reverse center:

‘Den 11 maart 1840 is hiermede de eerste steen gelegd der R.C. Kerk te Beverwijk
door W.J.C. van Waterschoot van der Gracht’

After the passing of the Grote or St. Agatha Church of Beverwijk into protestant hands during the Reformation, a small catholic church was erected in 1643 on the spot of the Our Lady of Good Council at Arendsweg and the corner of Heemkerkerweg; the church was named De Vogelsanck, and became a clandestine place of worship for the catholics of Beverwijk and Wijk aan Duin. In 1729 the chapel was renovated and enlarged and it served its community well into the 19th century.

In 1796 the National Assembly ordered to end the privileged position of the protestant congregations, hence all churches got equal rights from then on. The St. Agatha Church had to be returned to the catholic community, albeit that the protestants has to be compensated financially.

Around 1841 de Catholic Agatha church was built at Peperstraat as a replacement of the small clandestine chapel.

Jacobus Rijks and Maria van Poelenburgh were catholics. Jacobus passed away in 1727 and Maria in 1729. It is therefore likely that a sum of their inheritance was left to the clandestine catholic church in Beverwijk as a token of remembrance for the renovations in 1729.

Silver presentation trowels – sometimes called ceremonial trowels – are tools that are used to commemorate the construction of a building. These presentation pieces are recorded to have emerged in Europe in the 18th century, with widespread use occurring by the later 19th and early 20th centuries.

Presentation trowels were used as an integral part of foundation stone ceremonies. In these ceremonies, the first stone set in the masonry foundation – the foundation stone or sometimes referred to as the cornerstone – of a prominent building was placed in the presence of a crowd to celebrate the construction of the building. The presentation trowel was used to lay the foundation stone, and both featured etchings of the names of prominent people involved in the construction of the building, such as the mayor of the area. Celebrating construction of a new building with ceremonial trowels has been done for hundreds of years across many cultures. Foundation ceremonies were very popular, with thousands of people attending to watch the laying of the foundation stone.

The foundation stone was inscribed with the construction dates of the building, as well as the names of relevant people in the build. As the foundation stone was the first stone to be laid, its inscriptions were no longer visible once the building was complete. For this reason, a replica of the foundation stone was often made, with the same details engraved into it. This replica was placed somewhere that it could be seen by the public to memorialise the construction.

Presentation trowels were used for many variations of building, and weren’t limited to the most significant buildings. The rapid urbanisation that took place throughout the Low countries in the late 19th and early 20th centuries lead to the widespread use of ceremonial trowels. Numerous churches and civic buildings were constructed in this time, which influenced the increase in the use of presentation trowels.

Presentation trowels also acted as a useful tool for architects. Industrial revolution in the late 18th century led to a rapid growth of construction, which in turn quickened the development and demand for architects. Commercialised architecture careers led to an increase in presentation trowels as a form of self-promotion. Architects would encourage foundation ceremonies, and then acquire presentation trowels with their names on them.

Records show that presentation trowels were definitely used in the early and mid-18th century, but there is no surviving image of one from this period.

After the Second World War, the popularity of presentation trowels decreased, and they fell out of use.



Collection Jacobus Rijks and Maria van Poelenburgh;
Collection W.J.C. van Waterschoot van der Gracht, Beverwijk;
Private collection, Germany

Haarlem, unidentified maker's mark, 1729

28.5 cm

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