The Ename market cross


A medieval market around 1400 with market cross (BnF, Fr. 12559, f. 167r)


A medieval wooden market cross (BnF, detail of Fr. 12559, f. 167r)

In the Middle Ages, a market cross symbolised the right of a location or community to hold a yearly trade fair. This right was granted by the king or emperor and was a source of income, as a tax – comparable to our VAT – was imposed on all goods sold. In many cases, this yearly trade fair took place on the day of the patron saint of the community.


Market cross on a square in front of a church around 1320 (British Library, Royal 14 E III, f. 99r)


Market cross in a village centre around 1375 (BnF, Fr. 1584, f. Er)

In most cases, this yearly market took place on the central market square in towns, or on the commons of villages, which was altered to have easy access for the large number of people attending.


The yearly trade fair at Valkenburg (Rijksmuseum, Adriaan Van de Venne, 1618)

At the market cross, the rules of the trade fair were proclaimed, and the measures of length and weight displayed (as there were local differences).


Medieval trade fair of Utrecht – note the market cross in the back (Rijksmuseum, C.L. van Kesteren, 19th century)

Today, there are only two market crosses preserved in Flanders, one in Sint-Lievens-Houtem and one in Ename.  The Sint-Lievens-Houtem market cross from the 15th century is still linked to the yearly market – attended by about 50 000 people – that has been declared Intangible World Heritage in 2010. From medieval sources we know that this cross had a wooden precursor, probably from 1256 onwards.


15th century market cross of Sint-Lievens-Houtem (photo: Archeonet Vlaanderen)

Yearly trade fairs in villages were typically linked to abbeys. The Sint-Lievens-Houtem trade fair was organised by the Saint Bavo abbey of Ghent, on Nov 11 and 12, dedicated to Saint Livinus. The sphere below the cross indicates that also the count of Flanders was supporting the market (which means providing physical and juridical protection and probably getting his share of the collected tax).


The market cross of Sint-Lievens-Houtem around 1950 (photo: Collectie Robert Coppens – Erfgoedbank Land van Rode)
(photo: Collectie Robert Coppens –
Erfgoedbank Land van Rode)

In Ename, the yearly trade fair at Saint-Laurentius day (August 10) was established around 1000, when the trade settlement was flourishing. The right to hold a yearly market was transferred to the Ename abbey in 1063 when the trade settlement was replaced by the abbey. It was a major source of income for the abbey.  When the abbey was abolished in 1795, the trade fair continued, mostly as horse market.

market cross Ename

Market cross of Ename, 18th century (photo: Paul Maeyaert)

With the advent of tractors, the market disappeared in the sixties, but was revived as Feeste t’Ename, with horse riding demonstrations on Sunday and a horse market on Monday.

horse market Ename

Horse market in Ename (photo: Eddy Berte)

Although the Ename market cross has been mentioned earlier, we only have depictions of it from 1596 onwards.  The current cross dates from 1778 (the cross itself could even be from the 19th century).  But it is quite sure that a market cross was present in the centre of Ename in the 13th century, and probable already from about 1000 onwards.


Map of Ename in 1596, on the central square we see the market cross and probably the court benches and the pilory (National Archive, Brussels)


Detail of a map of Ename by Jan Bale, 1661 with the market cross depicted (University Library, Ghent)

For Eham 1291 (the virtual reconstruction of Ename in 1291), we wanted to make a 3D reconstruction of the Ename market cross in that time. As a basis, we use one of the three depictions of a market cross in the Veil Rentier (illustrated around 1290), more precisely the market cross of Bauffe, which was located very close to the abbey of Cambron, today Pairi Daiza.


Market cross of Bauffe in the Veil Rentier, around 1290 (Ms. 1175, Royal Library of Belgium)

The road from Bauffe to the abbey is still called the Rue de la Croix and the market cross is depicted along this road on the Ferraris map (around 1775).


The market cross of Bauffe on the Ferraris map around 1775 (Royal Library of Belgium)

As it is clear that the market crosses in the Veil Rentier are made of wood and as there are no wooden market crosses preserved today (even not in museums), we have based the interpretation of the drawing from the Veil Rentier (see above) on the oldest surviving stone market crosses in Belgium, France and the UK.

14th century market cross of Heaulme, the oldest surviving market cross of France

Analysis shows for example that the flower decoration of such crosses is very typical and always situated at the end of the arms of the cross (there is no perspective yet in the Veil Rentier drawings).  We have chosen to partially paint the wood, as suggested by the Veil Rentier drawing (see above).

Ename market cross 1290

Virtual reconstruction of the Ename market cross around 1290 (image: © Visual Dimension)

On one side, the cross carries the image of Saint Saviour, on the other hand the image of Our Lady, which is symbol for the double denomination of the Ename abbey.  The steps are made in the local Balegem stone.

Ename market cross 1290

Detail of the reconstructed Ename market cross (image: © Visual Dimension bvba)

In medieval times, the market cross would have been positioned in the middle of the commons (in analogy with other places such as Sint-Lievens-Houtem). Today the Ename market cross is located at one side of the market square, as was already the case in 1661.


The Ename market cross around 1290, in the Eham 1291 game (image: Visual Dimension bvba)



This work has been partially funded by the Flemish Ministry of Culture.

3D print next to the real object

The story of a Masterpiece – part 3

When doing virtual restoration on a museum object, we try to understand the object and what happened with it.  This third blog post about the Ename crosier, a Flemish Masterpiece on display in the Ename museum in Belgium, tries to reconstruct the chronology of the events that shaped the current museum object.


Top part of the Ename crosier, showing the Returning Christ (photo: pam Ename)

In the first blog post about this crosier, we showed in 3D how this crosier must have looked like when created around 1175 AD. Although the medieval artist, who cut this ivory masterpiece, has used some tricks to make it more sturdy, it is most probable that the the object gets broken at a certain moment between 1175 and 1390, as proven by art historian Elisabeth den Hartog.  As the object is so intricate, simply falling by accident on a hard floor could have been the cause of breaking.  Although we have no proof when this happened, we put this event in 1290 in our educational game Ename 1290.


Side view of the Ename crosier, showing the bronze bars that keep the broken pieces together (photo: pam Ename)

The broken pieces were put together by inserting two bronze bars through the middle of the object.  To fit the lower bar, it was required to cut away the upper jaw of the dragon. The lower jaw was most probable still present.


The dragon at the Lord side of the crosier has both upper and low jaw missing

So we think the repaired crosier looked like this. probably the crosier has been used for many more years, until a moment that it was considered too old, too worn out, and out of fashion. This moment lies probably at the end of the 14th century.

At that moment, the monks decided to bury the old staff together with a deceased abbot, most probable Gerard Ghuise who died in 1393.  His successor will have received a new staff, as the staff belongs to the abbey, not to the abbot.  From 1379 to 1385, the revolt of Ghent raged over Flanders, causing many casualties and severe economic losses.  In 1384, the last count of Flanders dies and Philip the Bold, his son-in-law and first Burgundian duke to rule Flanders, ends the revolt, restores order and revives the economy.  It is plausible that the Ename abbey could only afford a new staff for its abbot in that more prosperous time, as most of the 14th century was a very difficult period with famine (1315-1322), plagues (1346-1353) and war (1379-1385).

abbot burial

An abbot is being buried together with his staff (British Library, Yates Thompson Ms. 12, f. 34v)

There is however a possible second reason.  The Ename abbey was closely linked to the count of Flanders.  It is possible that the Ename crosier was donated to the abbey by count Philip of Alsace, when the new abbey buildings were inaugurated around 1175 (see part 1 of this extended blog post).  When the Burgundian dynasty takes over in 1384, the Ename abbey has to do great efforts to establish a new relationship with the Burgundian court.  Maybe a new staff symbolised the dependency on a new dynasty. Maybe the staff was donated by the Burgundian duke to the new abbot in 1393, as in most cases the abbot was proposed by the count of Flanders, at that moment Philip the Bold, Duke of Burgundy.


The location of the grave of abbot Gerard Ghuise, buried in 1393 in the abbey church (image: Visual Dimension)

Nearly 200 years later, the country is turmoil.  The civil war between protestants and catholics in Flanders (1578-1592) creates extreme poverty and total lack of rule of law. Grave robbers open graves at the abbey site, to find precious metals or objects.  They find the ivory crosier, break it and toss it away as ivory cannot be melted or reused.  A possible reason for breaking the object is the presence of a golden ring above the knob, as can be seen in the example below and many other crosiers.


The staff of Anno (Saint Servatius church, Siegburg)

When excavating the Saint Salvator church in 1995, archaeologists find the ivory crosier only a few meters away from the grave of abbot Gerard Ghuise.  In 1998, the Ename museum opens and the Ename crosier is one of the top pieces on display, supported by the TimeLine application, showing the object in all detail and telling its fascinating story.


This work has been partially funded by the Flemish Ministry of Culture.