Church Monuments Society

Vianen: general view. Photo Trudi Brink

The double tomb monument to Reinoud III van Brederode (d. 1556) and Philippote van der Marck (d. 1537)

Month: June 2012
Type: Effigy   Transi  
Era: 16th Century

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Grote Kerk

More about this monument

Few tombs from the Middle Ages and the early modern period remain in the Netherlands and only two of these are so-called double-decker tombs, i.e. consisting of an upper and a lower plane. One of them is located in the Grote Kerk in Vianen, a town situated to the south of Utrecht on the river Lek (fig. 1). The monument, which can be confidently attributed to the sculptor Colijn de Nole, was commissioned by Reinoud III van Brederode and intended to commemorate himself and his wife Philippote van der Marck, who had died in 1537. The monument was placed in the family chapel which was built after the earlier church had been destroyed by fire in 1540.

The tomb is still in its original location while at its east end there is a sculpted stone retable that also belongs to the original furnishings of the chapel (fig. 2). The only remaining inscriptions are located on a screen that separates the chapel from the nave of the church. The text on the inner side states that the chapel was intended for ‘the illustrious lords and ladies Van Brederode and Van Vianen’, while the outer side features the founder’s personal motto and the year 1542. Unfortunately all written sources concerning the liturgical practices in the chapel have been lost.

The lower plane of the tomb supports a single cadaver effigy, lying on a reed death mat. The cadaver is shown with the mouth open as if in a convulsion. The remains of the organs are visible inside the chest and stomach cavity, and snake-like animals crawl through and over the corpse. On the black marble plinth above lie two life-sized sculptures that represent the chapel’s founder and his wife. They are clad in shrouds, their heads rest on pillows and their facial expressions are peaceful. Both at their heads and at their feet we find decorated pedestals with two tall angels on top, holding a burning torch as a symbol of eternal life (fig. 3). Four putti kneel on the corners of the marble plinth. With one hand they support the escutcheon of each of the couple’s parents and with the other they extinguish an inverted torch, a symbol of the transience of earthly life.

The tomb was originally painted and remnants of polychromy are still visible. An article published in 1885 describes the state of the monument prior to the 1877 restoration as appalling. Its author mentions ‘a horrible brown skeleton with gilded worms on top of it or inside’. However, the question is whether this description refers to original polychromy. In 1828 the tomb had been repaired with plaster and putty before being covered in a thick coat of paint that was removed in 1877, together with what remained of the original colour.

Reinoud III van Brederode was an influential and wealthy man. He was born in 1492 as a son of Walraven II van Brederode and Margaretha van Borselen. Reinoud succeeded his father as lord of Ameide and Vianen in 1531. He developed a good relationship with Emperor Charles V, serving as his chamberlain and counsellor, and he often attended the court in Brussels; he was also made a Knight of the Golden Fleece in 1531. His wife Philippote van der Marck had been a lady-in-waiting with Charles V’s sister Margaret of Austria before her marriage. She was a daughter of Robert II van der Marck and Catharina de Croy, a descendant of one of the most powerful families of the Southern Netherlands. Reinoud and Philippote had ten children together: five sons and five daughters.

On the retable in the family chapel Reinoud, Philippote and their children are shown kneeling on either side of a now missing image of Christ’s Resurrection. The figure of Reinoud can be identified by his chain of the Order of the Golden Fleece. The survival of this retable, albeit in a damaged state, is quite remarkable. Hendrik van Brederode, who succeeded his father Reinoud III as lord of Vianen, was drawn to the new doctrine of Protestantism. He became one of the most foremost rebels against the Spanish domination. It was under his command that the church of Vianen was cleansed immediately in 1566, the year of Iconoclastic Fury in the Netherlands. However, there is no evidence that the iconoclasm was accompanied by violence and destruction in Vianen. A preserved inventory from 1567 shows that some of the church furnishings were moved to Castle Batestein, the residence of the Van Brederode family, but the monument and retable were left in place. Local Roman Catholics were allocated a different venue in the city of Vianen in which to practise their religion.

The tomb monument that was built for Reinoud III van Brederode and his wife is part of the furnishings of a family chapel in which the living could commemorate the deceased members of the family, thereby closing the circle of life and death. In the chapel they belonged to a single group. Collectively they could attend Mass and the living could pray for the salvation of the souls of the dead. So the furniture of the chapel fits well in the tradition of medieval memoria. In addition, the tomb and retable showed the importance and wealth of the Van Brederode family. Reinoud died in 1556 and was buried near his wife. Yet the chapel did not immediately fall into disuse when the church became a Protestant place of worship, for the tomb vault remained in use until 1679, the year in which the last male descendant was buried there.

The Van Brederode monument and the retable are two of the objects that have been inventoried and described as part of the MeMO (Medieval Memoria Online) project that is currently being carried out in the Netherlands. See:

Further reading:

– Hoffman-Klerkx, E.L., ‘Het raadsel van Vianen’, Bulletin van de Stichting Oude Hollandse Kerken 34 (1992), 3-8.

– Kloek, W.T. en W. Halsema-Kubes en R.J. Baarsen, Kunst voor de Beeldenstorm (deel 1), ‘s Gravenhage 1986, 101-102.

– Meyere, J.A.L. de, Het grafmonument van Reinoud III van Brederode in de Grote Kerk te Vianen, Utrecht 2010.

– Oosterwijk, Sophie, ‘Food for worms – food for thought. The appearance and interpretation of the ‘verminous’ cadaver in Britain and Europe’, Church Monuments 20 (2005), 40-80.

Fig. 1. Tomb of Reinoud III van Brederode and Philippote van der Marck, Grote Kerk, Vianen (Netherlands), 1540-1545, black limestone, Baumberg stone and Avesnes stone, 255 x 176 x 286 cm (photo: author).

Fig. 2. Retable, Grote Kerk, Vianen (Netherlands), 1540-1545, Avesnes Stone, 220 x 198 x 59 cm. (photo: Rijksdienst voor het Cultureel Erfgoed).

Fig. 3 Pedestal with angels and torch, detail tomb (photo: author).

Trudi Brink

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