A little over a year ago, the Catharijneconvent Museum experienced a robbery. Only one item was stolen, but it was taken in broad daylight during opening hours. The monstrance, a large gold vessel used to hold the consecrated Eurcharistic host, is one of a handful on display at the museum. Fortunately, police were able to recover it and it was eventually put back on display.
The Catharijneconvent has a new exhibit — Thuis in de bijbel (At home with the Bible) — that I was curious to see, so while I was there the other week, I decided to quickly stop in to see the recovered monstrance (seen in the photo above). It’s an effective display room that I remember from my previous visit. It’s a small, dark, low-ceilinged room with the items on display spotlit. All the gold, silver, and similar materials really do shine in that setting. Some are old pieces, while others are relatively new, including some of the bejewelled rings on display. I’ll hold my tongue on the amount of Church wealth on display in that one room.
I gave a quick walk-through some of the other areas I’ve seen before and this time I took a photo of the carpet in one section that I get a kick out of. As you’re walking through the room, you don’t immediately notice the pattern of the carpet cut-out, but when seen from the right angle, it becomes quite clear. A bit of modern styling amid centuries-old religious artworks.
In other news, they’ve found the remains of another old boat near the Catharijnesingel. (Honestly, Utrecht isn’t like Atlanta where everything is named Peachtree, or in this case Catharijne. It’s just a coincidence.) The canal, which became a highway, which is reverting back to a canal, was the site of the recent archaeological excavation. In fact, for my British readers, you may appreciate the fact that it was found near the Boots pharmacy over by the train station.
Anyway, the remains of the ship are oak and measure around 8 meters long and 2.5 meters wide. American (and some British) readers will have to do the metric to imperial conversion on their own, but trust me, it’s a good size. The boat dates to sometime between 500 to 1000 AD. It’s one of many boat remains that have been found in the general area in recent years. In fact, the really poor photo at the top is of a thousand-year-old boat that now stands in dry dock in the Utrecht Centraal Museum. You can literally smell the history when you step into that room. For what it’s worth, history smells a bit funky.
You may remember reading about an art theft from a museum in Rotterdam last year. Well, this past week it was Utrecht’s turn to have a museum robbed. However, instead of famous paintings, this time it was a religious artefact stolen from the Catharijne Convent Museum. The museum is home to a number of religious artworks and reliquaries, and considering the gold and jewels used in many of the pieces, it’s not surprising that someone might try to make off with one.
What is surprising is that the robbery took place during opening hours. The thief smashed the glass protecting the monstrance — a vessel used to store communion wafers — and grabbed it before security guards began struggling with the thief. In the end, the thief got away with part of the vessel, which is made of gilded silver and diamonds. A visitor to the museum actually managed to get a photo of the thief as he was running through the museum afterward with the vessel under his arm. The thief managed to get away on a moped, although it is thought that there may have been two men involved in the heist.
The monstrance, which is on long-term loan to the museum from the parish of the Holy Trinity in Amsterdam, is worth €250,000.