Vampires Netherlands

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The Sources:

M. Laurent (transl.):
"Die Chronik des Thietmar von Merseburg"
Leipzig, 1879

J.C.M. Laurent (transl.):
"Chronik Thietmar's Bischof von Merseburg"
Berlin, 1848

Thietmari Merseburgensis Episcopi:
in: "Monumenta Germaniae Historica", vol.IX, Berlin, 1935

The Case:

Our writer - Thietmar, Bishop of Merseburg - informs us that he has heard this tale form his cousin Brigitte, who was the Abbess of the Convent of St. Laurence.

"Tempore Baldrici praesulis, qui (ante) octoginta annos, vel plus, Traiectensem regebat sedem, in loco, qui Deventeri dicitur, ecclesiam senio dirutam renovans benedixit ac presbitero suimet commendavit. Qui in una dierum valde diluculo ad eam pergens , vidit mortuos in ecclesia et atrio offerentes atque audivit cantantes. Quod mox episcopo ut primum is retulit, iussus ab eo in ecclesia dormire, cum lecto, quo requievit, fequenti nocte a defunctis eiectus est. Ob hoc idem trepidus apud antistitem talia queritur. Is autem praecepit ei, ut cum sanctorum reliquiis signatus, aqua sacra aspersus, suam custodire non desisteret ecclesiam. Qui iussa secutus domini iterum dormire in ecclesia voluit, sed stimulati timoris casu sic iacendo vigilavit. Et ecce solita venientes hora, elevaverunt eum, coram altari eum ponentes, et in favilla tenues corpus igne resolventes. Hoc ubi praesul audivit, poenitentia ductus triduanum indixit ieiunium, ut et fibi animaeque defuncti succurreret. Multa, fili, de his omnibus, ni infirmitas obstaret, dicere potuissem. Ut dies vivis, sic nox est concessa defunctis."

Sadly the Latin versions that I have found are all slightly different. Which should not be a problem, because my rendering of the story will be based on one of the German versions.

In the time of Bishop Baldrich, who was bishop in Utrecht for some 80 years, the church of a place called Deventer was in a very bad state. Baldrich had the place torn down and rebuilt, consecrated the church and handed it to a priest. One day, this priest went to the church real early. He noticed a lot of dead people, both inside the church and in the churchyard, singing and all.

The priest reported it to the Bishop, who told him to go sleep inside the church. So he had his bed put inside the church and went to sleep. When the dead arrived they took up the bed and threw it outside, priest included. Once again the poor priest complained to his Bishop. Who ordered him to bring back the bed and sleep in the church again, this time protected by reliquaries and Holy Water. Despite these measures the dead came back again. Sadly, the Bishop's advice did not have the expected effect. The dead, who were even more angry this time, put both the bed and the priest in front of the altar and there burned him to ashes.

The Date:

Going by the information I have found, the Chronicle of Thietmar Bishop of Merseburg appears to date back to the 11th Century. The man himself is said to have lived from 975 till 1018. So let us just file this as "around 1000", shall we.

The Place:

I did not have to use any maps on this one. Deventer is an old town in the East of our little country. Every year it has a famous book market. Its other claim to fame is some horrible baked product called "Deventer Koek". And coming to think of it, I also used to have an uncle and aunt who lived there.

Personal Comments:

It is always a pleasure to find new material about my own country. I know this is a strange story. For those old tales written down by religious people usually are moralistic or meant to prove some argument or something. I find it rather hard to imagine what could be the point in writing a tale like this. "Thietmari Merseburgensis Episcopi" also informs us that he has heard this tale from his cousin Brigitte, when he was visiting her because she was ill. Was the story true ? Was the Abbess suffering from fevers or had she been given any opiates meant as medication ? It is hard to establish such facts after 1000 years have gone...

I must admit that I love the words of the Abbess Brigitte: "Ut dies vivis, sic nox est concessa defunctis." which more or less translates into "Like the day belongs to the living, the night belongs to the dead."

Possible Follow-Up:

I am happy to report that there is no lack of downloadable editions of Thietmar von Merseburg's "Chronicon". I found various versions, in Latin and in German. I have not really looked any further but I think I saw an English version too.

2014 by Rob Brautigam - NL - Last changed November 2014

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