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DID YOU KNOW? Amsterdam was once a pilgrimage destination because of a miracle.

In 1345 a miracle occurred in Amsterdam involving a Holy Communion host that had been given to a dying man, which he vomited up. The host was thrown into the fire, did not burn, and instead levitated above the flames. The site of the man's house became a pilgrimage destination similar to Santiago de Compostela. Holy Roman Emperor Maximillian came and so did Charles V. Successively larger churches were built on the site, and nineteen or so monasteries and convents were constructed nearby. Streets acquired names such as Heiligeweg (Holy Way), Gebed Zonder End (Prayer Without End), and Kreupelsteeg (Crippled Pilgrims), which are still in use today. 


The miracle is important to my story because fictional Papa, who converted from Catholicism to Calvinism as an adult, fondly remembers participating in the Miracle Procession that commemorated the event in March each year. As a child, he wore a devil costume and marched alongside little girls dressed as angels, with wings and all. When older, he and his classmates sang as they walked and stopped periodically to perform a short play about St. George slaying a dragon. The procession was full of pageantry and involved everyone of importance, including the guilds, cloisters, and archer groups that carried candles, banners, and paintings of their patron saints.


The miracle is also relevant to my fictional Aunt Margaretha, a Catholic Beguine, which you will read about in my next Did You Know? post.


When Protestants took over Amsterdam's government in 1578, they banned the Miracle Procession and seized the large Holy Place church on the miracle site. It was not until the mid-1800s that the procession was again allowed, but the Holy Place church continued to be largely disused until 1910 when it was finally dismantled. If you want to learn more about the miracle and Amsterdam in general, start with Russel Shorto's very informative book, Amsterdam: A History of the World's Most Liberal City.

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