Het wonder (miracle) van LOOSDUINEN occurred seven centuries ago on Good Friday. It is a fantastic story. I’ll tell you about it. Fascinating, especially If you live in the LOOSDUINEN district, south of The Hague. The village dates back to at least the twelfth century and so it is even older than Den Haag which was founded in 1230.
My friend, the poet, Edith lives in the LOOSDUINEN district, but she will move to an apartment with a view of the Haagse Bos closer to the centre of The Hague. Is your bed in Bohemen, Meer en Bos, Kijkduin, Ockenburg, Loosduinen, Kraayenstein, Houtwijk Waldeck, or in Loosduinen centre, then you can say that you live in LOOSDUINEN. Until 1923 this area was a village unto itself. For 91 years now it has been part of The Hague, which means that the inhabitants are ‘Hagenaars’.
The name LOOSDUINEN is a combination of ‘loos’ and ‘duin’. A ‘duin’ is a dune. ‘Duin’ is a ‘het-woord’. Dunes, as you know, are low sand hills usually along the coast next to the beach and the sea. The Dutch love them because they are a great protection against the powers of the sea. Because the land on the seaward side increased, the old dunes lost their function as defensive seawall and were called ‘loos’ (idle, false, empty). In the Middle Ages and even in the seventeenth century LOOSDUINEN was famous all over Europe as a place of pilgrimage. Do you know why? Here is my version of this amazing story. I have based it on ancient chronicles, believe it or not!
The miracle of LOOSDUINEN
Lady Margaretha (1234-1276) was the daughter of Floris IV, the Count of Holland (1210-1234) who founded The Hague in 1230. For political reasons Margaretha of Holland had married German Herman, Count of Henneberg in 1249 in Mainz. Most of the year they resided in Coburg, but like so many German famiilies they loved going to the sea and the dunes and so they possessed a second castle in LOOSDUINEN.
One day in the summer of 1275, Lady Margaretha was enjoying her peace and quiet. She had just finished the Song of Songs in her Bible. She read this book again and again because of her desire to be the most pious woman in the county. Suddenly there was a knock on the door. Lady Margaretha immediately recognised the lowly woman at the door. It was Catherine, a young ‘Loosduinse’ mother of two boys who were born almost at the same time.
Now, Lady Margaretha knew very well that a woman who had given birth to twins must have been promiscuous at the time of conception. That was a proven medieval scientific fact. Each of the twins was supposed to have a different father! Lady Margaretha’s pious mind felt stained and therefore she immediately tried to close the door. Too late, Catherine had put her foot in the doorway. ‘My boys are hungry, for my husband has left me. Everybody thinks I have no decency’ she said. And she added: ‘Nonsense of course but Lady, can spare me a coin?’
Lady Margaretha refused. ‘No way, Catherine, you adulterous beggar, have you no pride? Have you no decency? Small wonder your husband left you. Go back to your sons, try the other father and ask him to provide for them, you lewd and improper wench, you.’
Catherine went home in anger and prayed fiercely that God would punish Lady Margaretha for her cruel words. She said: ‘Please let the Lady give birth to as many children as there are days in the year.’
In the spring of the next year Lady Margaretha fell ill and on Good Friday of the year 1276 the 42-year old mother gave birth to 364 or 365 children. They must have lost count. These children, which were said to be as tiny as crabs, all died immediately after they had been baptised in one large vessel in the Loosduinen church. All the boys were called Johannes and all the girls Elisabeth. The unfortunate mother did not survive this ordeal either. This legend became very popular and many women who found it hard to conceive made the pilgrimage to Loosduinen where they would touch the baptismal font hoping that some of the Lady’s fertility would rub off on them so that they could bear a child soon.
In one of the earliest chronicles it is described as follows:
‘Waerom hier menigh wijf gegaen komt of gereden / Die vruchtbaer hoopt te zyn en haest met kind gemaeckt / So maer haer handschoen een van dese beckens raeckt’. (The reason why many a woman will go or ride here / is that she is hoping to be fertile, and to have a child quickl / when her glove touches one of the fonts.)
Samuel Pepys and his visit to LOOSDUINEN
Four centuries later Samuel Pepys (1633-1703) came to The Hague to collect the new King James (II). He toured the city and its surroundings and he also visited the miraculous place in LOOSDUINEN. On 19 May 1660 he wrote in his diary:
‘To our lodging to dinner. After that out to buy some linen to wear against to-morrow, and so to the barber’s. After that by waggon to Lausdune, where the 365 children were born. We saw the hill where they say the house stood and sunk wherein the children were born. The basins wherein the male and female children were baptized do stand over a large table that hangs upon a wall, with the whole story of the thing in Dutch and Latin, beginning, “Margarita Herman Comitissa,” &c. The thing was done about 200 years ago. The town is a little small village which answers much to one of our small villages, such a one as Chesterton in all respects, and one could have thought it in England but for the language of the people. We went into a little drinking house where there were a great many Dutch boors eating of fish in a boorish manner, but very merry in their way. But the houses here as neat as in the great places.’
In the eighteenth century the interest of the pilgrims dwindled and in the Age of the Enlightenment (De Eeuw van de Verlichting) the legend came to be considered as irrational. If you really want to know what happened, read this.