Story is illustrative for the history of many other benefices.
Summary lustrum book from 2001:
This publication addresses a topic that has not received frequent exhaustive attention in historical literature. Meant are the “benefices”: the ecclesiastical foundations that were set up during the late middle ages, with the objective of providing a priest with sufficient income so he would be able to use his time to celebrate masses for the redemption of the souls.
By means of the history of the Vicarie Sancti Nicolai – founded on 27 October 1501 in the Jacobs church in Winterswijk in The Netherlands – a tale is told that is in many respects illustrative for the history of thousands of other benefices (vicarie foundations).
Reflection on the late medieval opinion on communities
The establishment of the many benefices in the fifteenth and early sixteenth century was not only due to the appearance of the virulent fear for the purgatory of that time. It formed at the same time a reflection of the late medieval opinion on communities. In many cases it appeared that the founding of a vicarie was not because of the generosity of a single person or family, but was the result of a communal effort and a reflection of the prosperity of the parish. This was also true for Winterswijk, where the establishment of the Vicarie Sancti Nicolai took place in a period in which the local parish church was subject to a considerable expansion.
Instrument of reformed education and church politics
After the Reformation the benefices in the Netherlands got a new destination. The government stated that the income from the foundations now had to benefit the Reformed church and the State. For this reason the government tried to gain control over the management of the benefices and bring them under their authority. In the course of the seventeenth century the State repeatedly announced regulations showing their intent to make the old foundations an instrument for their Reformed education and church politics.
Stewardship of the lawyer family Van Basten, later Van Basten Batenburg
However, these government politics led repeatedly to serious opposition. This was also the case at the Vicarie Sancti Nicolai. The ‘collation right’ of the Vicarie – the right to assign the annual income from the foundation to a beneficiary – was for centuries in the hands of the descendents from the catholic lawyer family Van Basten, later (Van Basten) Batenburg. The issue who would hold the rights on the revenues from this foundation in Winterswijk, ensured a wide range of enduring conflicts, legal processes and interventions by the government.
Decline of the old benefices
The real decline of the old vicarie foundations was taking place just after the end of the ancient regime. Many country estates of benefices were sold or taken in a fraudulent way. In the second half of the nineteenth century the national politicians became aware of this problem, after which the benefices became the centre of a lengthy political and legal debate, which among others, resulted in the establishment of a state commission. However, a definite regulation was not made.
Consequently the majority of the old foundations have been dissolved. Only a small number was able to avoid this fate. One of them is the Vicarie Sancti Nicolai, which is still acting as a study trust.
Vicarie Sancti Nicolai is one of the few surviving medieval institutions in the Netherlands
In this comprehensive study a fascinating picture is outlined of the rich -now already five hundred years lasting – history of the Vicarie Sancti Nicolai.
The authors elaborate exhaustively on the philosophical and familial framework in which the vicarie was established, the lives of the priest-beneficiaries in the sixteenth century, the restless and violent period of the Eighty Years’ War in the Netherlands, the catholic elites in the Achterhoek, and the many – frequently escalating – family quarrels which arose in the twentieth century concerning the assignment of the study allowance of the Vicarie.
The story is always told in consistency with the adventures of other foundations and against the background of general social and religious developments.
The book is thus appealing for everyone interested in the legal, religious and educational history, as well people interested in the regional history of Gelre and Gelderland.
Drs. Conrad Gietman (1966) is working as an editor with the Centraal Bureau voor Genealogie and High Council for Nobility in The Hague. Drs. Arjan Verschoor † (1962) was, as History teacher, associated with the St.-Oelbertgymnasium in Oosterhout. Both authors studied history in Utrecht.
The authors have been coached on behalf of the Foundation, by an editorial staff: Didy van Basten Batenburg – de Jong van den Brand and R.G.C.M.M. van Basten Batenburg LL.M..
Publishing house Van Gruting at Westervoort, www.van-gruting.demon.nl