The XVIIth International Congress of Celtic Studies – Utrecht 2023

Excursion Blurbs

Wednesday the 26th of July is excursion day at ICCS, and delegates may choose from a selection of 7 excursions. The cost for each of these excursions is 50 euro, except for Saint Patrick’s Lost Chapel (40 euro), and Special Collections (free). Lunch is included in all excursions, except in the excursion to Special Collections. The description of each excursion may be found below:

  1. Manuscripts and Antiquities (Leiden)
  2. Celtic Connections in the South of the Netherlands
  3. The Dutch Middle Ages (Zutphen)
  4. Frisians & Vikings & Celts? (Frisia)
  5. Saint Patrick’s Lost Chapel in the Netherlands (North-Holland)
  6. The Irish College on the Continent (Leuven, Belgium)
  7. Special Collections at Utrecht University (free)

1. Manuscripts and Antiquities (Leiden)

This excursion will explore the university town of Leiden, and the various Celtic artefacts that are housed there in the University Library and the National Museum of Antiquities.

We will start the day with a visit to the Special Collections Department of Leiden University Library, where the Keeper of Manuscripts, André Bouwman, will show us a selection of manuscripts and early prints that have links to the Celtic Middle Ages and Early Modern Period. This will include ninth-century manuscript BPL 67D, written in France with the assistance of an Irish scribe, as well as ninth-century manuscript BPL 67, which contains notes by Johannes Scottus and a colophon by a certain Dubthach. Of course, the Leiden Leechbook (VLF 96a), with its multilingual glossing, will be part of the tour, as well as the sixteenth-century VLQ 7, which contains part of Echtra Finn and Fled Bricrenn. VLQ 7 is the only fully Irish-language manuscript to be housed in the Netherlands. Finally, the seventeenth-century print copy of Leges Wallicae Howeli Da (1628), and the study of Welsh in Early Modern Leiden, will receive some attention.

Following this visit to Special Collections, lunch may be enjoyed in the Botanical Gardens of the University, which are conveniently located on our way to the National Museum of Antiquities. The Hortus Botanicus Leiden is the oldest botanical garden in the Netherlands, created in 1590. It is also the place where the first tulip collections were grown which, despite their origins in Turkey, are still symbolic of the Netherlands to this day. After this relaxing lunch, the National Museum of Antiquities will receive us and take us on a tour of the Celtic objects in their collections, led by the curators. This is only fitting, since the National Museum has very kindly agreed to have their ‘Celtic Coin’ figure as part of the logo for ICCS ’23!

2. Celtic Connections in the South of the Netherlands

Large numbers of locally produced mini-amphorae were sacrificed in a small pond in Bergen op Zoom during the Roman period. Among the finds is part of a statuette of Sucellos and nearby a ring was found with the image of a mare and fowl, probably referring to Epona. The municipal archaeologist will give a brief introduction on the spot. In the adjacent church we visit the monumental tomb of Charles Morgan, Welshman and military governor of Bergen op Zoom from 1631 until 1642. The garrison also had Scots regiments and John Gabriel Stedman (1744-1797) spent part of his live here. His writings became important in abolitionism.

In Middelburg we visit the Zeeuws Museum with some archaeological finds (including two Nehalennia-altars) as well as an impressive group of tapestries made around 1600 and depicting episodes of the Eighty Years War in Zeeland. During this war mercenaries from Wales and Scotland (and England) fought in the service of the Dutch Republic. There is also time to visit the historic city centre of Middelburg. Finally we pay a short visit to the reconstructed Nehalennia-temple in Colijnsplaat, the fishing village where in the early 1970’s fishermen dredged up a large number of altars dedicated to Nehalennia.

This tour also offers a wide variety of Dutch landscapes, including parts of the coastal defence works known as ‘Deltawerken’.

3. The Dutch Middle Ages (Zutphen)

This trip will visit Zutphen, a city located 100 km to the east of Utrecht. Zutphen is known as the ‘tower city’ and has one of the best-preserved medieval town centres of the Netherlands.

We will visit St Walburga’s church, a 13th-century collegiate church built on the site of a Romanesque temple dating to the 11th century, parts of which can still be seen today. The highlight of our visit will be the Librije, one of the last chain libraries in Europe. Following this, we will receive a tour especially created for #ICCS delegates through the City Archives and the Archaeological Department of the Stedelijk Museum of Zutphen. There will also be time to enjoy a city walk around the historical centre of Zutphen, following a carefully mapped-out route at our your pace. In this route, you will discover fortifications and centuries-old buildings from various eras, such as the 15th-century defensive Bourgonje turret and the Drogenap tower, as Zutphen has over 900 historical monuments and many towers (hence its nickname).

4. Frisians & Vikings & Celts? (Frisia)

The Frisii who inhabited the coastal lands of the North Sea in the first centuries BCE and CE were a (Germano-)Celtic people. They vacated their raised mounds in the 4th century, after which a Germanic people colonised the area, quickly calling themselves Frisians too.

The excursion will look for the early medieval Frisians, perhaps finding traces of their Celtic predecessors but in any case providing a feel of how it was like to inhabit those fertile but wet lands. The tour will also enable us to amply enjoy the Frisian landscape.

The day will start with a visit to the Fries (Frisian) Museum in the Frisian capital, Leeuwarden. We will then walk through the old center of the town to the Fryske Akademy, the research institute for Frisian language, history and culture, founded in 1938 and partly housed in monumental buildings. There we will have lunch.

In the afternoon, we will tour to the northwest and northeast of the Frisian coast. First we will visit the terp (mound) of Firdgum, where an early medieval sod house was reconstructed. Because of the scarcity of wood, grass sods were used to build houses. The sod house is built next to the Yeb Hettinga Museum, which is housed in the medieval farm cum castle complex which goes by the name of Camstra State.

After that, we will go to Hegebeintum. With a height of approximately 9 meters above NAP, the terp of Hegebeintum is the highest terp in the northern Dutch and German terp area. It is also one of the oldest mounds: the mound was already inhabited around 500 BCE. At Hegebeintum, we will visit the medieval church with its beautiful interior, as well as the small museum, offering additional information on the site.

5. Saint Patrick’s lost chapel in the Netherlands (North-Holland)

This excursion will dive into the connections between Ireland and the province of North Holland, through the Brederode family. It will include a visit of the medieval church ruins of Brederode Castle, the early medieval church dedicated to Engelmundus in Velsen-Zuid, and the archaeological museum ‘Huis van Hilde’ in Castricum.

Jan van Brederode (c. 1370-1415, Azincourt), lord of Brederode Castle, was one of the first among the Dutch nobility who we can trace on a pilgrimage to the famous St. Patrick’s Purgatory near Lough Dearg. In fact, when he returned, Jan van Brederode founded the first chapel in the Netherlands to be dedicated to St. Patrick near his castle. Renowned scholar of Middle Dutch literature and history, Frits van Oostrom, will speak to us about Jan van Brederode’s arduous journey to Ireland and his tumultous life among the pictoresque ruins of the castle.

Following this, we will make a brief stop at the Engelmunduskerk in Velsen-Zuid, one of the oldest churches of the Netherlands. It first appears in a charter of 722 by Karel Martel, who gifts the church to the Abbey of Echternach. According to local tradition, the church was founded by Engelmundus, pupil of the famous, Irish-educated Willibrordus. The church also has strong ties to the Brederode family, as was illustrated by the discovery in the 1960s of a 13th-century grave slab, depicting lord Willem 1 of Brederode and his wife Hillegonda van Voorne.

We will stop for lunch and a tour through the Archaeological Museum Huis van Hilde, named in honour of the 4th-century woman who was excavated nearby. This museum is modelled after a medieval Dutch farm and has even made sure to include a modern ‘sacrifice’ below the doorframe, consisting of a time-capsule created by the children of Castricum. It exhibits the most beautiful and interesting finds from the archaeological collection of the Province of North Holland, always keeping people at the centre of the story. One may find here, for example, the reconstructed images of Willem 1 of Brederode and Hillegonda van Voorne, based on their depiction in the Engelmundus church.

6. The Irish College on the Continent (Leuven)

This excursion will take us to the university city of Leuven in the Flemish region of Belgium, where we will visit the Irish College. Please note that this trip will depart at the earlier time of 7 am.

The Irish College in Leuven was established in 1984 on the former campus of the Irish College of St Anthony, an Irish Franciscan college founded in 1607. It was one of the earliest colleges established on the continent to offer a Catholic education for Irish migrants. It has been an important centre of Irish learning on the European continent throughout the centuries. In particular, the College at Leuven was renowned for its exceptional scholarship, networking, significant political influence and its impact on Irish cultural identity. We will learn about its history, the community of scholars housed here (Mícheál Ó Cléirigh, John Colgan, Hugh Ward), and their work to preserve Irish history and culture. Part of the manuscripts produced in the College have been digitized, and we will be able to access ISOS on site to admire them on location. A unique tour of the site will allow us to visit the surrounding areas and learn more about the building itself. The Irish College works very closely with the Leuven Centre for Irish Studies, a university research centre. KU Leuven was founded in 1425 and it is the oldest university in the Low Countries.

In the afternoon, you will be able to explore Leuven with one of the mapped-out tours provided to you. During this free time in Leuven we recommend visitors to walk around the stunning medieval city centre: the Grote Mark (Old Town Hall, Saint Peter’s Church, don’t miss Fonske, or Fons Sapientiae, a statue near the church) and the University Library at Monseigneur Ladeuzeplein. You can enjoy lunch or coffee (or one of the famous Belgian Trappist Beers) in one of the many nice cafés in the Oude Markt. If you have time, drop by the Botanical Garden (Kapucijnenvoer 30) or go for a stroll around the Great Beguinage, a UNESCO world heritage consisting of a residential complex which housed a community of lay religious women (entrance via entrance Schapenstraat – please be advised that this is a private residential area that belongs to KU Leuven).

7. Special Collections at Utrecht University (free)

In this free excursion, you will be able to experience two very special sections of Utrecht University. Firstly, Utrecht University Library Special Collections department holds about 900 medieval manuscripts, a wealth of beautifully printed books, atlases and maps, and among its many archival and book collections those of A.G. van Hamel and Maartje Draak. A selection of the most precious and remarkable documents will be on display in the University Library Science Park (Uithof), and an exploration of this will be hosted by keeper of manuscripts and Celticist dr. Bart Jaski. Additionally, the nearby Utrecht University Botanical Gardens will provide free admission to all participants of this excursion. The Botanical Gardens cover nines hectares and are the largest university garden of the Netherlands, created on and around the 19th-century Fort Hoofddijk, part of de Nieuwe Hollandse Waterlinie (UNESCO World Heritage). Here you can find the beautiful Rock Garden, the Evolution Garden, the Discovery Garden, a Bee Hotel and the Birders Den. Please note that travel to the Utrecht Science Park is at your own leisure, either by walking (50mins), cycling (25mins) or public transport (10mins with bus 27 or 28 from Janskerkhof).