Picking up the Pieces: Catholic Material Culture and Iconoclasm in the Low Countries


  • David de Boer




Iconoclastic Fury, Iconoclasm, History, Low Countries, Belgium


In 1566 the Catholic majority in the Low Countries witnessed the large-scale destruction of their religious habitat during the Beeldenstorm. Afterwards, Catholics treated the objects that had fallen to (or survived) iconoclasm in different ways. This article analyses how Netherlandish Catholics interacted with and renegotiated their material religious culture after its violent dislocation.


I will argue that church objects had multiple layers of meaning and were tied to individuals, groups and local communities in various ways. Moreover, iconoclasm could fundamentally change the meaning that was ascribed to these objects. By evaluating the diverse qualities of the objects that had come under attack, Catholics simultaneously found strategies to condemn the Beeldenstorm in secular terms.


This article is part of the special issue 'Beeldenstorm'.


In 1566 moest de katholieke meerderheid in de Nederlanden toezien hoe een groot deel van haar religieuze habitat werd vernietigd tijdens de Beeldenstorm. Katholieken behandelden de objecten die wel (of juist niet) aan iconoclasme ten prooi waren gevallen op verschillende manieren. Dit artikel analyseert hoe Nederlandse katholieken opnieuw duiding gaven aan hun religieuze materiële cultuur na haar gewelddadige ontwrichting.


De rol van kerkobjecten in de vroegmoderne samenleving was complex en ambigu, omdat ze op verschillende manieren verbonden waren met individuen, groepen en lokale gemeenschappen. Iconoclasme kon er bovendien voor zorgen dat de betekenis van een kerkobject fundamenteel veranderde. Door de verschillende kwaliteiten van de aangevallen kerkobjecten nader te beschouwen vonden katholieken strategieën om de Beeldenstorm ook op seculiere gronden te veroordelen.


Dit artikel maakt deel uit van het themanummer 'Beeldenstorm'.


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Author Biography

David de Boer

David de Boer (1990) is a doctoral student at the University of Konstanz and Leiden University (cotutelle doctoral programme). In his PhD research he examines the public communication of European religious persecutions and expressions of transnational
solidarity in the Dutch Republic between 1650 and 1750. A forthcoming article explores visual representations of the violence committed against the Waldensians in Dutch newsprints: ‘For Pity and Piety: Images of Religious Persecution in the Dutch Republic’, in: David de Boer, Monika Barget and Malte Griesse (eds.), Iconic Revolts: Political Violence in Early Modern Imagery (Leiden, Boston, forthcoming 2016). De Boer has also written a chapter on the cultural memory of furies during the Dutch Revolt for a forthcoming book on civic identity in Mechelen: ‘In Memoriam vs. Damnatio Memoriae: The Cultural Memory of a Sacked City’, in: Peter Stabel et al. (eds.), Urban Identities in the Late-Medieval and Early Modern City: Mechelen in the 15th and 16th Centuries (Turnhout, forthcoming 2016). Email: david.de-boer@uni-konstanz.de.




How to Cite

de Boer, D. (2016). Picking up the Pieces: Catholic Material Culture and Iconoclasm in the Low Countries. BMGN - Low Countries Historical Review, 131(1), 59–80. https://doi.org/10.18352/bmgn-lchr.10179