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11 St. Stevens church

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Cities and government
Nijmegen’s parish church was once located near Valkhof castle. This church was demolished in the second half of the thirteenth century when the city walls were built. The Count of Gelders and the city council decided to build a new church – St. Stevens on Hundisberg hill.

On September 7, 1273, the new St. Stevens church was formally inaugurated by Bishop Albertus Magnus on behalf of the Archbishop of Cologne. This was because Nijmegen fell under the ecclesiastical authority of this Archbishop during the Middle Ages. The original St. Stevens church was smaller than the current church, but it was extended in several phases. Between 1420 and 1456 the new choir with an ambulatory as well as a radiating chapel were added. The project was led by the famous Rijnland architect Gisbert Schairt van Bommel. The church reached its present size in 1560.

In 1459 St. Gertrudis chapel was built on the site of the old church on Valkhof hill. Even though it was demolished in 1579 some remains of the walls can still be seen today. In addition to the parish church, Nijmegen had many monasteries. The oldest was the Commanderie of Sint Jan, first recorded in 1214. This was a combination of a monastery, a hospice and lodging for strangers. Another important monastery was the Dominican fathers’ ‘farmer’s monastery’. The Dominicans were resident in Broerstraat from 1293 to approximately 1950. They led a sober life and provided for themselves by begging, preaching and providing pastoral care. The Catholic pastors were not happy with the arrival of the Dominicans as they became fierce rivals. The same applied to the Franciscans who settled in the city in 1455.

The Modern Devotion, a spiritual reform movement within the Catholic Church, had followers in Nijmegen, some of whom were housed in Molenstraat. The Brethren of the Common Life, as the followers of the Modern Devotion called themselves, moved into a house on Lage Markt in 1470. In 1475 they moved to Bottlestraat where they bought adjoining houses. The friars earned their living by housing students and copying illustrated books.

Nijmegen also had convents. In 1228 there was a nunnery on Nonnenstraat. In addition the city had a couple of beguine houses, the oldest of which was in Begijnenstraat. Pious women, who did not follow convent rules lived in these beguine houses. However, following pressure from the church and secular authorities most beguine houses eventually adhered to convent rules, as did the convent on Hessenberg.
Structure and growth of religious life
since 1273
The St. Jan’s commandery (AM)

11 fotocommanderie.jpg

Source: Jan Kuys, in: De Canon van Nijmegen, Uitgeverij Vantilt (Nijmegen 2009)
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