My favourite part of maritime heritage is not the first thing you might think of when you hear the term ‘maritime heritage’. It is not a ship or anything found on or under the water. Still it has a strong, but indirect connection to the maritime history of the province of Zeeland. I have chosen the ‘wandtapijten van de Staten van Zeeland’ as my favourite part of maritime cultural heritage for a multitude of reasons.
These tapestries were commissioned by the Staten van Zeeland to strengthen its own power, because it had been only about fifteen years (1648) since the Spanish invaders had been defeated. Over the course of fifteen years six tapestries were made of which five display the battles of Bergen op Zoom, the battle of Rammekens, the battle of Lillo, the siege of Veere in two parts and the battle of Zierikzee. The other one and, the last one to be made, was the weapon tapestry which is also significantly smaller in size compared to the others. This tapestry was meant to hang centrally above the hearth place as it signified the regime of the newly formed province, consisting of the cities of Middelburg, Zierikzee, Goes, Tholen, Vlissingen and Veere. Thus, the tapestries not only contain a very important story about the development of Zeeland as a sovereign state, but also celebrate the freedom of the from then on independent cities of Zeeland and its inhabitants.
One thing that I really like about these tapestries is that they are not trying to glorify the soldiers of the battles or to praise heroic deeds. These tapestries should rather be compared to a kind of history book rather than just an ordinary political symbol.
In my opinion, not trying to glorify battles but rather focussing on what this resulted in is quite similar to the way liberation day is celebrated in the Netherlands. The day after we remembered the fallen of WW I and WW II and of wars all over the world, we celebrate that we are able to live in freedom and peace and should keep this stability.
These tapestries are thus an early example of this universal thought of what peace time should look like and that we should try to always keep it. For this reason, I truly believe that these tapestries and their often hidden meaning are a very important part of our Dutch maritime cultural heritage.
By Deandra de Looff