1129 building





Terry Haslam-Jones, a distant cousin via the Van Der Hoeven family of Beesd, obtained a history of De Heerlijkheid (Manor) Mariënwaerdt during a visit there in 2003. It was written by Ottilie van Vershuer. The Mariënwaerdt is interesting as a bit of Beesd history, and also because of the name of the last abbot: Johannes Van Hove. Due to the flexibility of names in those days, he could be a distant uncle – or even grandfather.



translation from the Dutch (with comments in parentheses) by Dan Gamber June 2003


Long long ago the family Van Cuyk gave a piece of land (near Beesd, Gelderland) to the (Catholic) church. The gift specified that a cloister must be built there, and choose for it a central point, the Herigerwaard. A “waard” is a piece of land partially surrounded by water; in this case that was the Linge and a branch the Serige.


In those times the church had a great deal of influence and founding a cloister increased the status of the Van Cuyk family.


The bishop of Utrecht, Andries van Cuyk, wanted a cloister where right and order would reign. He already had much trouble in his bishopric with misbehaving “spirituals” (priests, monks and nuns). Therefore he choose the Norbertine order, a strict order (founded in Xanten in 1035). The abbot and the canons were to come from Prémontré, near Laön in France.


In 1129 the cloister was built, a square house with an adjacent chapel. The name “Herigi Insula” was changed in honor of the Virgin to “Insula Sancte Marie.” The Herigerwaard became Mariënwaerdt. The stream bank where the cloister was built was surrounded by water most of the year.


Mariënwaerdt was founded as a double cloister, with both brothers and sisters. The first abbot was Robert, a son of the English king (Henry I).


In addition to spreading the faith the brothers and sisters were occupied with agriculture. They tanned the hides of the animals themselves; leather shoes provided good protection again the damp ground. They had their own blacksmith shop and bread bakery, and on the shore of the Linge a fish house. They brewed their own beer. There was good contract with the other side (of the river) as there was a ferry across to near Enspijk.


A couple of years after the foundation of the cloister two nephews of Andries van Cuyk were charged with the murder of Floris the Black, count of Holland. They were banished. Their mother, Alveradis van Cuyk, gave as penance a large donation to the cloister. With it the cloister bought the low land behind the waardt, the Mariënwaerdt field. There the brothers grew barley for the livestock (and likely also for beer). Alveradis also gave the family crest to the cloister. The crest has ducklings.


After their involvement in the death of Floris of Holland the family Van Cuyk fell into poverty. The countess of Holland took over from Alveradis van Cuyk as protector of the abbey. Thereafter the cloister was able to buy additional land here and there. The cloister received from that land rents and products in kind, for example peat.


[picture of the grave marker of abbot Petrus van Zuyren]


Mariënwaerdt founded other cloisters, among others in Zennewijnen: Mariënschoot (Maria’s womb). Mariënschoot became the home of the sisters of Mariënwaerdt, who had lived with the brothers for a century, following a new rule from Laön that sisters and brothers had to live apart.


The cloister had good periods and bad, depending on the abbot of the day. The abbot of Mariënwaerdt was officially under the abbot of Laön. Those had difficulty controlling bad performers. The abbots of Mariënwaerdt dealt with their problem canons themselves.


Another major problem was the water. Regularly the lower fields were flooded and the livestock had to be brought to safety. The cloister itself was safe but for the livestock a special flood protection had to be built. The animal food was kept high and dry in barns.


The central location on the boundaries of Holland, Brabant, Gelre (Gelderland) and Utrecht gave Mariënwaerdt an important role in mediating between the adjacent provinces. Regularly the duke of Gelre, the bishop of ‘s Hertogenbosch, the count of Holland and the bishop of Utrecht got in each others hair.


During the “Utrecht schism” when Zeder Van Culemborg and Rudolf Van Diepholt contested the bishop’s throne, Mariënwaerdt sided with Zeder. In reaction, in 1427 the army of Van Diepholt attacked and plundered the cloister. The inhabitants had to flee. A passage (tunnel?) had been dug to the bank of the Linge where they took boats via the Linge and Bishops Canal to the free city of Kuilenburg.


The finances of the cloister were enough to allow reconstruction. In 1543 the Peace of Venlo meant the end of the fighting and plundering and the start of a period in which the cloister grew great. From 1545 to 1561 Petrus van Zuyren was the abbot. He devoted a lot of effort to the repair and improvement of the cloister. He built a tower with four bells by the cloister church, and installed two organs in the church.


The great St Jans Church in Gouda burnt in that time. The reconstruction committee asked for the donation of windows. Petrus van Zuyren donated one, with his picture by Crabeth. He is in full regalia, standing before the infant Jesus. Under the window is the crest of Mariënwaerdt, on the side that of Van Zuyren.


On Maundy Thursday (Thursday before Easter) and Christmas Eve, Van Zuyren provided the so-called “spyndonger,” the distribution of bread and beer to sometimes as many as 5,000.


The successor of Van Zuyren was Johannes van Hove. The appointment as abbot of Mariënwaerdt was such an honor that the family Van Hove made the pension payments to Van Zuyren in thanks. Van Zuyren went to live in Zaltbommel with his female friend and their daughter.


Petrus Van Zuyren was buried next to the abbey, just as the other abbots. During the reconstruction of a farm (meaning here a building complex including house, stables and barn) a broken stoop (stoep in Dutch – a small “porch” outside an entry door) was marked for replacement but on the bottom was found the crest of Van Zuyren. It was his grave stone, which had served for a pair of centuries as a threshold. The name of the farm house was for a long time the “abbey building.”


On 22 March 1567 (at the beginning of the religious wars) the abbey was taken over by soldiers of Hendrik van Brederode. The inhabitants had to flee and Johannes van Hove, the abbot, was taken away. The abbey was plundered and destroyed. There was nothing to return to. Stone masons and cement makers took away the remnants for sale. The bricks, the so-called “kloostermoppen,” were used for the construction of other houses, among other places in Beesd. The Gelder government appointed an administrator to assume control of all abbey properties. That was the final end of the Mariënwaerdt cloister. The Reformation made it difficult to recreate the cloister.


During the French invasion a century later Louis XIV intended to return the area to the Church of Rome. He gave orders to the abbot of Prémontré, Michel Colbert, to return Mariënwaerdt to its old prestige and power. However Louis’s troops were soon forced out. The abbey land was taken over by the Nijmegen Quarter (a subdivision of the province of Gelderland during the Republic). They were afraid that history would repeat itself and sought a buyer for the land. In 1669 a surveyor, De Bayonville, surveyed the property.


There was not a lot of interest in the roughly 800 hectares (2,000 acres) of which the majority was regularly under water. Therefore in 1709 Mariënwaerdt was designated a “high manor” in the hopes of attracting a buyer. The designation includes special hunting (including use of duck decoys) and fishing rights, the right to keep a dovecot, and the sole control of public roads and paths. Further, the owner could name the preachers in nearby churches, and had some judicial power not only in his own land but a surrounding area. The Nijmegen Quarter tried to interest the Orange family (the royal family since the end of the Napoleonic era) which already had properties nearby, but they did not have enough money.


The German Count Palatine also showed interest. He had good memories of the land where he spent his youth, and he sought a pied-a-tier in Holland. A preliminary contract was drawn up, but then he withdrew. It was only in 1734 that the 800 hectares were sold, to Count Otto W. A. van Bijlandt. He already owned the neighboring farm “de Stapelakker.” A massive new House Mariënwaerdt was built over a period of nearly sixty years. It incorporates the cellar of the cloister.


The property has passed down in a direct line since. The current owners are the Van Vershuer family, as one inheritance was by a daughter.



The property remains agricultural but in recent times one building was been converted to the six-bedroom B&B “De Neust”. Various fruit products such as chutneys and preserves are a specialty of the estate. See more at