Lowlands-L: Water under The Bridge: Things past but not forgotten — History of the Lowlands worldwide
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The “Priestless Church”

near Schoonoord


By Arend Victorie (Drenthe, Netherlands)
Translated from Drenthe Low Saxon and adapted by Reinhard F. Hahn (Seattle, USA)
This article previously appeared in the Lowlands-L Travel Guide

Whe name “Priestless Church” (Low Saxon Papeloze karke, Dutch Papeloze kerk) Map of the Northern Netherlandsis that of a dolmen situated in a wooded area between Schoonoord and Sleen (municipality of Coevorden) in the lovely Netherlands province of Drenthe. Its index number is D49. It appears to have been constructed at the time of the Funnelbeaker Culture which arose in Europe around four millennia before Christ.

The name “Priestless Church” refers to clandestine religious services conducted locally in the open air, typically in wooded areas, under the leadership of Menso Alting during the 16th-century persecution of Protestants. Such services came to be referred to as “priestless” (using the derogatory word pape or paap for “Roman Catholic priest,” which originally meant “pope”). In the words of Calvin, this was une église sans pape (a church without pope). The name of the dolmen is meant to commemorate one or more such open-air services of the Eighty Years’ War (which is also known as the Dutch Revolt).

The “Priestless Church” near Schoonoord
(Courtesy Gouwenaar and Wikimedia Commons)

Such open-air services are still being conducted once a year. The last one took place recently, on July 22. The previous one was held entirely in Drenthe Low Saxon and was organized by the historical association of Hoogeveen whose name is Die Luyden van ’t Hooge Veene (archaic Low Saxon for “The People of the High Fen”).

The dolmen is now surrounded by forest, but in the 16th century it lay exposed out on the open Ellertsveld. Uninvited guests could be seen approaching from afar, and for safety’s sake a patrolman would stand guard during a service.

Because of its then very poor condition, the dolmen was restored in 1959 under the direction of archeologist Albert van Giffen.

Map of the Northern NetherlandsOther pages:
Gemeinde Coevorden
De Papeloze kerk (Dutch, 1)
 De Papeloze kerk (Dutch, 2)
 Coevorden Municipality
 Province of Drenthe (PDF)
 Dolmens (Wikipedia)
 The Official Dolmen Center
 Dolmens in the Netherlands
 Arend Victorie’s introduction (1)
 Arend Victorie’s introduction (2)

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