Day Trip to Nijmegen

Part Five:

Downtown Nijmegen

From the Valkhof it is a matter of a block to enter downtown, and you can immediately see that it is a lopsided mix of mostly new, and some little bit of old.  The new was made necessary by an Allied bombing raid into Germany that got confused and bombed friendly Nijmegen instead, just a few tens of miles west of the real target, taking out almost the entire historic downtown.  'Friendly fire' is what this type of accident is called but somehow doesn't make it feel any better.

I remember going up these steps with my parents for official papers to allow us to emigrate.  This was city hall then, now city hall is in a larger building.

Across the street from this building was a side street that I remember looking down as a kid, and being more fascinated by the river below than by the stores above:

Straight ahead lies the heart of the city, its Grote Markt or grand market place.  

We will look around here, but first I need lunch, and remember as a kid being really thrilled with lunch at the Hema department store.  It was good, I had a cheese sandwich with some taste and a Dutch apple pastry.  A drinkable yogurt topped it off.  Not fancy food, but this is the sort of thing I was really happy to get as a kid. And then it was usually all cut in pieces and shared.  Did I mention that we were not rich?

Now that lunch is done I am ready to walk around the heart of the city with you.  Here is a strange suffering female figure in the market square, holding what may be a Medieval torture device?  The inscription says (my crude translation): "It doesn't matter who answers my complaint, God or the Devil, it is all the same to me."  This is a local heroine about whom a pageant has been written and performed, Mariken van Nieumeghen.  The tale is from the early 1500's and anonymous, although it has been added to and published later.

Mariken is 18 and very nice looking.  Her uncle sends her into nearby Nijmegen for groceries one day, and tells her to stay overnight at her aunt's place in town since he doesn't want her coming home in the dark.  She gets refused entry at her aunt's place and is stuck, in the cold and dark and utter the famous phrase that she doesn't care who comes to her rescue, God or the Devil, it is all the same to her.  The Devil hears this and walks by in the form of a man who gives her shelter and takes her places, and she comes to realize who she is.  In the meantime angels are arguing that God does not want this soul lost because of something said in desperation, so a deal is made that if she will escape from her protector/captor and will wear three iron rings tightly around her neck and arms until they wear down and fall off she can be forgiven and saved.  Years of this penance later, angels (Mary even gets involved in meeting out this mercy) come and release her from her painful penance.  The moral?  Anyone can be forgiven of anything?  Perhaps.  It is a Medieval morality play.

The archway behind the statue (put up in 1990) is part of a building from the early 1600's.  

There used to be a surgeon's suite above those arches, and behind it stands the oldest church in the area, St. Stephens, which has parts dating back to the 13th century but became a reformed church during the Reformation. Its tower was blown off in 1944 but restored within 10 years.  

Just beside the church stands the old Latin School:

Coming back through the arches shows the old weighing house, a necessity for a market square:

It is now, obviously, a place to eat, and drink, indoors or out.

Waking out of downtown there is another church I remembered for its avant-garde architecture when it was built, the St. Canesius church:

A few blocks in this same direction I expected to find, and did find, the long street that would take me to my old neighborhood.

Go to Part Six: My (Our) Old Neighborhood

Go to Part Seven: The Jonkerbos woods

Go to Part Eight: The Maas-Waal Canal

Go Back to Part One: Why a Short Tour Now?

Go Back to Part Two:  Arrival and the Kruidtoren in the Kronenburger Park

Go Back to Part Three: The River Waal and its Bridge

Go Back to Part Four: The Historical Valkenburg Park

 Go to Leuven, Belgium, and see the Groot Begijnhof (Grand Beguinage)--same trip

 Go to Brussels and see the Christmas decor--same trip

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