The Netherlands in the 10th and 11th century in a European context
In 2023, the National Museum of Antiquities (RMO) aims to present a retrospective on the Netherlands in the 10th and 11th century in a European context. Accompanied by a book for a large audience, a short film about this era and an educational programme that includes intergenerational learning and an escape game. The exhibition will be designed as an evocative journey through the Netherlands around the year 1000. It finishes at the Palace of Nimwegen, during a visit of the German Emperor Otto II and his Byzantine spouse Theophano.
Aim of the project
The aim of the project is to realise a new and comprehensible image of the period around the year 1000 in the Netherlands, by means of an inventory of archaeological finds, remains of buildings, and objects from the 10th and 11th century, plus a synthesis of research into those, and to communicate this image with a large and varied audience through an exhibition, book, and film.
Why the year 1000?
The 10th and 11th century are an underexposed period of Dutch history, for which archaeology is the main source. In these centuries, the Netherlands become recognizable through large-scale land reclamation and building in stone. Recent excavations have yielded much information on climate change and daily life around the turn of the first millennium. ‘The Netherlands’ do not yet exist at that time, which is why we study the border regions with present-day Belgium (Liège) and Germany (Cologne, Aachen) as well. But the seat of authority was in Paderborn, or even Rome, and there was much travel and trade. Especially in the 11th century, people living in these regions came in contact with a wider world: that century ends with the first crusade to Jerusalem.
Project, team, internship opportunities
- The research is directed by Dr. Annemarieke Willemsen FSA, curator of the medieval collections of the RMO. It is executed in cooperation with tens of scholars, organisations and museums.
- To create a new and understandable image of this period, that can be communicated with a large audience, we first need a survey. From January 1, 2021, Raphaël Rijntjes MA has been appointed by the RMO to draw up a full inventory of finds, structures and objects from the 10th and 11th century in the Netherlands and adjacent regions.
- At the RMO, interns from Dutch universities join in the preparatory scientific research.
- Under supervision of Dr. Marco Mostert (Utrecht University), 10th/11th-century written sources about our regions and their inhabitants are studied. In this, students can cooperate as well.
- The project has been made partly possible by the Mondriaan Fund.
For the length of the project, Annemarieke Willemsen has additionally been appointed Museum Fellow of the Royal Netherlands Institute Rome. Part of the research will be conducted there. For instance studying important figures in the exhibition, like Theophano and Sylvester II, Empress and Pope around the year 1000. But pilgrimage from the Netherlands to Rome, apocalyptic thinking, and heresy as well. In the Fall of 2021 we will organise a workshop on The year 1000 in Rome at the KNIR.
- June-December 2021: Scientific research into the Egmond Gospels, at the Royal Library The Hague, with the Cultural Heritage Agency (RCE)
- 7-8 October 2021: Workshop The year 1000 in Rome at Royal Netherlandish Institute Rome (was very interesting!)
- November 2021: Round Table with various experts in Rijksmuseum van Oudheden
- Spring 2022: Holland Day on early castles in Rijksmuseum van Oudheden, with Province of South Holland
Call for info
Raphaël Rijntjes is contacting many archaeology services and archives, museums, and private individuals for the inventory. We would love to hear from people who own or know objects from the time frame 900-1100: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Every first Monday of the month we post news about 1000 years ago via the Facebook and Instagram page of the museum. In addition, curator Annemarieke Willemsen regularly posts updates on her Twitter account: @amwillemsen1.
Top photo: Viking drinking horn used as a reliquary, 11th century (Treasury Church or Our Lady, Maastricht)
Egmond Gospels, c.975 (collections Royal Library, The Hague)
Saucepan from Assendelft, c.1000 (collections RMO)
Broadsword inscribed Ulfberht, from the Scheldt river, 1000-1025 (collections RMO)
October 2021 – Pilgrim in Rome | In Rome with intern Pleun van Lieshout, who researches pilgrimage to Rome in the 10th and 11th century. Various travelogues have been preserved from this time, even from Icelandic pilgrims who wandered via Utrecht to Rome. These texts give an impression of the long and dangerous journey. Pilgrims made their will before leaving, in case they froze to death in the Alps… Finally in Rome, northerners stayed at the schola frisorum, where the Frisian Church is, close to St Peter’s. In San Clemente, an 11th-century fresco even depicts a pilgrim, recognizable by his staff and shoulder bag: St Alexis on arrival in Rome. [AW & PL]
September 2021 – Viking drinking horn | In Limburg to visit treasuries of 10th/11th Century basilicas. In that of the Church of Our Lady in Maastricht, verger Mark Pleunis and I look at the silver plated Viking drinking horn, later used to store relics. It’s a key object for The Year 1000 and already the banner of the project website. Now we deliberated a loan and it looks good! And today I am allowed to just hold it in my hands -adrenaline- and study it up close. New ideas immediately: the silver strips, with animals, masks and plaits, might be based on textiles. Worth thinking about. [AW]
June 2021 – The real book | Libraries reopened! So started researching the Egmond Gospels in the Royal Library The Hague, with curator Ed van der Vlist, conservator Ilse Korthagen and RCE-scientist Luc Megens. This is possibly the most important 10th-century book in the Netherlands. We are planning technical analysis to create an object biography for the exhibition. Step 1 is always: a close look at the original manuscript and formulating questions. Were the famous pages at the end with Dirk II, count of Holland, planned this way? Has some text been erased there? And do we see a master and an assistant at work in the wonderful illuminated pages from around 900 AD, full of interwoven patterns, bird’s beaks, and columns with eyes? [AW]
May 2021 – In Rome with Otto | Eye to eye with the Emperor of the year 1000 AD! Otto III is depicted on a wellhead in San Bartolomeo on the island in the Tiber. Wonderful 10thC sculpture, looks like ivory carving, but 75 cms high. And it still functions, above a source with healing water: inside are good deep traces of hauling buckets. On the front Christ is shown, on the left St Bartholomew (with knife), on the right a bishop and on the back the crowned and bearded Emperor Otto. To see him, you woud have to lie down outstretched across the altar steps. That is called proskynesis – and is exactly what common people are supposed to do before an Emperor… [AW]
April 2021 – Griffin from Istanbul | Looking through the stores to see what the international RMO collections hold from 900-1100. We seem to have a mosaic from the Hagia Sophia in Istanbul! A nice large piece showing a “flying griffin” with two tulips in the background, that has been in Leiden since 1744. Its provenance was noted down in 1802 as “Constantinopoli e ruderibus S. Sophiae”, the ruins of the episcopal palace surrounding the proper church/mosque. That’s interesting, because it means it stems from an elite residence. Stylistically it fits with North-Italian mosaics from the 10th-11th century. The griffin is welcome in our exhibition. [AW]
February 2021 – Money and Portrait! | Deliberations with Paul Beliën of De Nederlandsche Bank about coins from the 10th and 11th century that we might show in our exhibition. Mainly it’s silver coinage and very small: coins like thumbnails. So we will have to show these with photographic enlargements, or maybe 3D animations. A nice thing: the coins depict people, like Hendrik II, Emperor Conrad II and Bishop Adelbold. There we were, thinking we had almost no portraits of our key players… Moreover, they are shown in the way they wanted to present themselves, with the attributes of their functions. We can work with that! [AW]