Sunday 18 August 2019

Just add holy water: Zeeland place of pilgrimage saved

Photo: Vrouweputje.nl via Facebook

A medieval pilgrimage place in the province of Zeeland has been saved from oblivion, not by divine intervention but thanks to the efforts of Goes local council, broadcaster Omroep Zeeland reports.

Het Vrouweputje (the women’s well), a small pond in ‘s-Heer Arendskerke whose water is said to have healing powers, has long been a meeting place for spiritual groups, schools, church groups and nature lovers.

A lack of funds and board members spelled the end for the Vrouweputje, with the additional threat of it becoming part of Zeeland’s agricultural area and disappearing altogether.

But now the council, spurred on by GroenLinks councillor Manda Heddema, has appointed new board members, requested subsidies from various sources and put out the word to find more volunteers.

Heddema’s motives for wanting to keep the Vrouweputje going were environmental rather than spiritual. ‘We have created a lovely nature area the size of a stamp, one of the last remaining authentic polder landscapes. It is full of indigenous plants and it would be a great shame if it disappeared ’, she told the broadcaster.

Among those who would also have lost out are the pupils of vocational school De Wissel who brush up on their practical working skills by maintaining the area.

For others, however, the Vrouweputje is a place of myth and legend. According to local lore the virgin Mary appeared there in medieval times to a woman named Greet who was banned from the city of Goes.

She ordered her to cure people using the water from the pond.  Ever since people – and animals-  suffering from rheumatism to open sores have come to find a cure at the pond, or to fill up bottles with miracle water to take home.

Arthritis

The annals of the Vrouweputje, cited in a booklet published by the Vrouweputje foundation, tell the tale from the late 1940s of a woman who regularly treated her arthritic leg with the water which her son fetched for her. One day he came home with ordinary ditch water and she said: ‘That is not water from the Vrouweputje, it doesn’t work!’

The foundation, which describes the Vrouweputje as a ‘source of unity’,  is pleased the pond has been saved. ‘This is a place of reflection and spirituality’, one board member said, ‘and we can now continue with a light heart.’

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