an almost forgotten mysterious woman
Sister Bertken is a remarkable spiritual figure in the history
of the Netherlands and certainly in the history
of medieval Utrecht.
When she died in 1514 she was seen by the citizens
of Utrecht as a very holy person.
The bells of the Domtower were sounding twice to honor her
as one of the greatest saints
on the day she died,June 25 1514.
She lived in a cell of about 3 by 3 meters
according to the rules of enclosed people.
She was not allowed to leave her little room.
She had to pay for the building of her enclosure herself
(which she did)
and by handywork she had to provide for her own living,
which she did very successfully,
because what she earned more the she needed
she handed out to the many poor who consulted her.
In her enclosure the dimensions came together
because she had visions and prophecies.
For her the dimensions were opening wide.
It seems there is a book with visions of Sister Bertken,
but Robert could not trace a copy of it until now.
Many people came to her little window to ask for advice
and to ask for her visions.
She was a living saint.
On the inside of the Buurkerk (Buurchurch)
she could see and hear the proceedings
in the ancient church.
This church was a "Noodgods" church
where the triad Anna, Mary and the dead adult Jesus
was venerated by many pilgrims.
The Noodgods veneration was in many places destroyed
between the years 1450 and 1550
by the Roman Catholic church itself
even before the Reformation took over.
May be this Noodgods aspect is the reason, why Sister Bertken
is not talked about or recognized as a saint.
The Noodgods is ofcourse recognisable as the two sisters
Isis and Nephtys moarning the dead of their
brother Osiris (Asar).
Sister Bertken in her cell.
An old token of her activity.
Sister Bertken was born in 1426 and her name
was Berta Jacobsdochter.
She stayed in her cell for 57 years
from 1457 until her death in 1514.
The gravestone of sister Bertken in the busy shopping mall Choirstreet.
Thousands of people step upon her gravestone
without even knowing that very probably
the grave of Sister Bertken is still somewhere in this street.
The copper square on the map of the church
indicates where her little stone cell was.
The church is partly broken down.
Already in 1539 the cellar of Sister Bertken
was destroyed by the Roman Catholic church
and her grave was replaced.
In 1579 the People of the Reformation took over
and destroyed her grave totally.
The Buurchurch was partly broken down
(the altar part of the church)
and transformed into the Choirstreet,
today a very busy mall in the center of Utrecht.
Original words of Sister Bertken
Ik was in mijn hoofken om kruud gegaan
Ik was in mijn hoofkijn om kruud gegaan,
Ik en vand er niet dan distel ende doorn staan.
(In my head I was searching for healthy herbs,
but all I found was thistle and thorns).
Den distel ende den doorn die wierp ik uut,
Ik zoude gaarne planten ander kruud.
(The thistle and the thorns I threw out
because I would like to plant another herb).
Nu heb ik een gevonden, die gaarden kan;
Hi wil die zorge gaarne nemen an.
Een boom was hoog gewassen in korten tijd,
Dien vond ik uter aarden gebrengen niet.
Dat hinder van den bome merkte hi waal,
Hi toog ‘m uter aarden altemaal.
Nu moet ik hem wezen onderdaan,
Oft hi en wil dat gaarden niet bestaan.
Mijn hoofken moet ik więn tot alre tijd,
Nochtans en kan ik ‘s klaar gehouden niet.
Hierin zo moet ik zaaien leliënzaad,
Dit moet ik vroeg beginnen in der dageraad.
Als hi daarop laat dauwen, die minre mijn,
Zo zal dit zaaiken schier bekleven zijn.
Die leliën ziet hi gaarne, die minre mijn,
Als zi te rechte bloeien ende zuver zijn.
Als die rode rozen daaronder staan,
Zo laat hij zinen zoete dauw daarover gaan.
Als hi daarop laat schinen der zonnen schijn,
Zo verbliden alle die krachten der zielen mijn.
Jezus is zijn name, die minre mijn!
Ik wil hem eeuwelijk dienen en zijn eigen zijn.
(Jesus is his name, my lover mine!
I will serve him for ever and be his).
Zijn min heeft mi gegeven zo hogen moed,
Dat ik niet meer en achte dit aardse goed.
(His love has given me so much courage,
that I don't pay attention to these worldly goods).
We got several e-mails from Eastern Europe
with the question whether Sister Bertken
really existed. Because the same kind of story
goes around in the folklore.
In this case it is absolutely sure that
Sister Bertkens existed.
You may e-mail:
Updated August 12, 2012
Everything on this website:
Copyright©2002-2012 by Robert and Susan