name “Priestless Church” (Low Saxon Papeloze karke, Dutch Papeloze kerk) is 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
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).
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.
English word “dolmen” is derived from French which derived it from Breton tael maen ‘stone table’. Dutch hunebed and German Hünenbett (“giant’s bed”) as well as German Hünengrab (“giant’s grave”) are based on the old-time belief that giants must have moved the massive boulders
and giants must have been buried in the large graves. There are many
other names, since dolmens are found in numerous areas of Eurasia,
especially in Northern and Western Europe, the Middle East, Northern
Western Caucasus, Siberia, Southern India’s Kerala (Tamil kalkiţţai), and Korea ( goindol). Another Celtic-derived name is used in English either for dolmens in general
or for specific British types: “cromlech” (from Welsh crom llech “bent flagstone”).