Stevenspedel at the pilgrim’s lauds

Last month, I filled in as the ‘Stevenspedel’, the one who guides our sunrise departure ceremony in the Stevenskerk. On the first Saturday of the month, a little after sunrise, I went in a brocade blue cloak and with a chic walking stick and modern bowler hat in front of a silent procession through the Stevens Church in Nijmegen (1273). The association led to a special edition of our book of hours Seasons of Life, from which a specially invited ‘reader on duty’ read a text.

Stevenspedel at the pilgrim's lauds
Theo van Stiphout, the first Stevenspedel of the ceremony

It was fun to supervise the ceremony once, but also a bit strange. I don’t usually wear a bowler hat or brocade blue cloak, and certainly not in the presence of others. The cloak at the ceremony refers to the clothing of wealthy dukes from the Middle Ages. The time in which three brothers from Nijmegen – the Brothers of Limburg – illustrated the now famous Book of Hours, on which our own Book of Hours Seasons of Life is inspired.

Three-quarters of the way through the Stevenskerk I stopped at the special edition of Seasons to carefully lift it out of its formwork. Only one copy of the publication exists. It contains all the original artwork that can be seen as reproductions in the popular edition. The price difference is corresponding: the popular edition costs €19.95 and the special one €15,000,-. We divide the proceeds among the Stevenskerk and Walk of Wisdom foundations.

You don’t just pick such a special book from the shelf. Hence this monthly reflection ceremony around it. The book stands next to the large statue of our symbol Pilgrim. Only once a month do we turn a page – at the pilgrim’s lauds. Which page that is, is determined by the ‘reader on duty’. This time it was Manja Bente, co-developer of the Walk of Wisdom. She chose a reflection by Leyla Cakir, the first female president of a mosque in the Netherlands.


We were there early this time: it was the pilgrim’s lauds of June and the sun rises early (05.34h). But like other times, I was surprised how light it is when you go outside around sunrise. It is a beautiful and soft light. The atmosphere in the deserted, old church felt like the realm of Sleeping Beauty where everything and everyone is waiting to be kissed awake.

Pilgrim's Lauds Walk of Wisdom

We were that kiss this morning: our footsteps echoing through the high space; tapping my stick on the ground, Manja raising her voice to speak. After the contemplation, we stopped in front of the large windows of the church to watch the rising sunlight.

Once outside, I got the ghost and offered to accompany the pilgrims in full regalia as Stevenspedel over the first 700 meters of the trek. The streets were deserted except for the occasional night owl and a few market vendors who set up their stalls further on. A group of sparrows rolled through the air, twittering, and tumbled into the lush ivy of a wall. At the Valkhofpark, Manja and I waved goodbye to the pilgrims.

On the way back to the church we passed a stall. One of the merchants looked up, surprised and happy: “Ivanhoe…!.” he waved after me.

Next pilgrim lauds: agenda
More about Seasons of Life: a contemporary book of hours and pilgrims: link.

Stevenspedel Jeroen van Zuylen by René van Nieuwkuijk