Unknown artist, The explosion of the Zandpoort

Part 3 of 3. Part 1 is here. Part 2 is here.

Concursum est Mechliniam ex omnibus Brabantiae oppidis atque urbibus, immo et e vicinis Provinciis, ad tantae cladis inspectionem. nam reperta fuere mortua mutilaque corpora ad sesquimilliare extra civitatem variis locis disiecta, quaedam horrendum in modum ex arboribus pendentia; ut concubinae praetoris ab AA, quae flavescenti capillitio ex arboris ramo nuda dependens, aperto ventre, intestina in terram defluentia omnibus cum horrore ostentabat. civitatis fossa ab utraque dirutae turris parte ad ducentos passus sicca conspiciebatur: murus ad idem spatium, quo turris steterat, ab utroque latere excisus erat, cum eo loco aqua, quae in fossa erat, pedestris lanceae altitudinem fere aequaret. pisces quoque magno numero per agros dispersi exstinctique conspiciebantur, vicinarumque arborum rami iis abundabant. arbores cerasis ceterisque pomorum generibus scatentes (consita enim erat Mechlinia in circuitu omni pomiferarum arborum exquisito genere) pro maiori parte radicitus eversae: ceterae foliis fructibusque spoliatae, paulo post (dictu mirum, sed verissimum) primum folia, deinde flores, postea fructus eodem autumno iterum reddidere, sed pars maior non plane maturuit. memini me Mechliniae in Templo D. Petri, haud procul Santporta sito, ubi mortui fuere sepulti, hoc legisse ante Templorum vastationem, sub Calvinismo factam, distichon, annum, diem, causamque cladis continens:
tVrres ContrItae LaCerant VI pVLVerIs aedes,
septena AVgVstI, fVLgVre MeChLInIae.
(Pontus Heuterus, Res Austriacae 12.8)

From every town and city in Brabant, even from the neighboring provinces, people rushed to Mechelen to inspect this terrible tragedy, for up to a mile and a half outside the city mangled corpses had been found scattered in various places, some hanging gruesomely from the trees. There was for example the concubine of the praetor appointed by the Archduke of Austria, whose corpse hung naked from a tree branch by her blonde hair, her belly open, showing her intestines dangling to the ground, to the horror of all onlookers. The city’s moat was found to be empty up to a distance of 200 feet on either side of the demolished tower. An equal length of the city wall on both sides of the spot where the tower had stood was razed as well, and there the water from the moat was about as deep as the length of an infantry lance. Large numbers of fish were seen as well, lying dead all across the fields. The branches of the trees too were full of them. The entire area around Mechelen was planted with magnificent fruit trees, but most of them (the abundant cherry trees and other types) were utterly destroyed, and the ones that weren’t were robbed of their fruits and foliage. After a little while though (it sounds incredible but is absolutely true) these regained first their leaves and then their flowers, and that same autumn the fruit had returned, albeit in most cases without attaining complete ripeness. I remember being in the church of Saint Peter in Mechelen, which is located not at all far from the Zandpoort and which served as burial ground for the dead. This was before the destruction of the churches by the Calvinists. There I read this distich which mentions the year*, the day, and the cause of the catastrophe:
The ruined towers devastated the houses with the force of the powder,
on the seventh of August, by the lightning of Mechelen.

* The year is ‘hidden’ in the capitalized letters of the original Latin verse.

(tr. David Bauwens)



2 thoughts on “Vastationem”

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