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Workmen resurfacing Zierikzee’s heritage square

Tags: Excerpts from the Windmill

ZIERIKZEE - Cobblestone layers were recently busy resurfacing the square at the historic Saint Jacobs residences, locally known as the St Jacobshofje. Not surprisingly, the site has been around for a very long time. It became city property back in 1580 when the fishers’ guild was having difficulties keeping up its maintenance. Once a powerful group, the fishers had been in decline in troubling times when the city came to the rescue. The housing units around the square served as homes for the destitute, such as widows or spinsters without family to support them, who resided there free of charge. The guild’s hall (called St Jacobshuis) was turned into a storage facility for the city’s militia in 1582. Other guild holdings were auctioned off in 1599 to help pay for the maintenance costs of the buildings. The guild’s demise occurred during the Dutch Republic’s quest for independence from Spain – at the time still a very open question. Women used to clean fresh fish underneath the square’s gallery, even before the site was turned into the city’s Fish market. While visitors now find the site lovely and tranquil, for its sixteenth century residents life there was hard, no doubt still harder than for the cobbling crew seen crawling around there recently resurfacing the square with age-old cobblestones.