August 23, 2012

Two important ladies from Mechelen

Walking through Mechelen is not only interesting from an architectural viewpoint, it can also be a fun history lesson. 
This building became the Palace of Margaret of York after the death of her husband Charles the Bold. It is now the City Theatre. 
Originally the Bishop Cambrai resided in the building when he was in Mechelen. Margaret chose the vast Court as part of her settlement when she became a widow. It is also known as the imperial court because Holy Roman Emperor Charles V resided here from 1500 to 1515. Just above the little door in the tower is her diamond-shaped escutcheon, alongside that of her spouse, Charles the Bold. 

The bronze statue in the last picture shows Opsinjoorke in full flight. "The original doll was made in 1647. It is carried in ceremonial and religious processions and thrown into the air by means of a large linen cloth. It was originally called Sotscop or Foul Bridegroom, a reference to inebriated husbands who maltreated their wives. Divorce was absolutely forbidden in those days, and so the doll was symbolically punished (thrown into the air) for the sins of these men.
The doll acquired its current name on July 4th 1775 when, during a religious procession, the doll went beyond the reach of the cloth and landed among the crowd. An onlooker from Antwerp put out his arms to ward off the doll, but was accused of trying to steal the Sotscop. After receiving a sound thrashing from the patriotic people of Mechelen, he sent a letter of protest to the Mechelen magistrate pleading his innocence. From then on Sotscop became known as Opsinjoorke, 'sinjoor' being the nickname of the people of Antwerp!