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Document Details :
Title: Een ondergrondse weg naar de middeleeuwen
Subtitle: De Caestertgroeve in de Sint-Pietersberg
Author(s): SPEELBERG, Femke
Journal: Tijdschrift voor Interieurgeschiedenis en Design
Volume: 38 Date: 2012-2013
In this so-called Age of Nostalgia, the past has an unequivocal attraction. However, it is but seldom that we can really experience the past in the here and now. For an historian this professional nostalgia is rarely satisfied. On the other hand, in the underground quarries of the ‘Sint-Pietersberg’ you get a sense of being lost in time. It is generally known that the quarries are covered with old drawings and inscriptions dating back to the sixteenth century. Yet it has been recognised only recently that some drawings are even older. One of the quarries contains drawings, marks and inscriptions that date back to the fourteenth century. The drawings were known to a small group of people but had, until recently, never been closely studied. During the last ten years, former chemist Henk Blaauw has taken the initiative to examine the origin and meaning of these drawings. In collaboration with the art history department of the Radboud University in Nijmegen an art-historical analysis of the material was initiated and the drawings were carbon dated. This combination of research proved to be successful. It was determined that the marks and drawings on the ceiling of this quarry date from the fourteenth century while some of the charcoal drawings on the walls can be placed in the second half of the fifteenth century. For the art-historical investigation, the drawings were divided into three groups. The first group consists of marks on the ceiling of the quarry that were made using soot from lights used during the extraction of the marlstone. Most of these marks must bear some relation to the work in the quarry. Some scribbles on the ceiling are still a mystery, however. The largest and most impressive drawing on the ceiling is about 7 m wide and depicts St George slaying the dragon. The second and third groups consist of drawings on the walls of the quarry. The drawings of the second group are found throughout several passageways and are both profane and religious in character. Although these drawings cannot be directly linked to daily practice in the quarry, they give us an idea of popular culture in the late fifteenth century. We encounter fools, wild men, and devils in addition to Christ as Salvator Mundi and a beautiful depiction of Christ in the Garden of Olives. The third group consists of religious drawings that were likely conceived as a cohesive programme which may be interpreted as an underground church. Unfortunately these drawings only survive in photographs as this part of the quarry collapsed in the 1950s. Until now, most drawings have survived without protection. In order to save these drawings for future study and enjoinment, however, it is vital that an effective programme is realised to protect them.