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The “Priestless Church” near Schoonoord

By Arend Victorie, Hoogeveen, Drenthe, Netherlands, ©August 2007
Translated and adapted by Reinhard F. Hahn, Seattle, Washington, USA, ©August 2007

[This article is also available under “Water under the Bridge”.]

Map of the Northern NetherlandsThe 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 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 Roundhouse in Fremantle
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 the relevant part of Drenthe Back to “Places to See”
 Back to the Netherlands
 Back to Europe

Other sites:
 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)





The 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 Russia, the 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”).










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