On Wednesday 11 May, the Minister-President of Flanders, Mr Jan Jambon, visited New College Oxford, where he was received by the Warden and by the Dean of New College for an exclusive visit to the Courtrai Chest. The Minister-President was in the UK in the context of the Belgian Economic Mission (#BEMissionUK) which took place 8-12 May.
During the visit it was announced that, from the Summer, New College will loan the Chest to the city of Kortrijk (Courtrai) for at least a year, where it will be the centrepiece of a multimedia exhibition in the Church of Our Lady. There has been a replica in the former museum 1302 since 2006. The Diplomatic Representation of Flanders managed to secure the loan, in close cooperation with the city of Kortrijk.
The Courtrai Chest depicts the oldest known images of the Battle of the Golden Spurs (1302), the most iconic battle in Flemish history. The artefact probably dates from shortly after the battle and was made by a carpenter from Bruges. The weaponry and heraldry in the images shows that the craftsman was well informed about the historical facts of the battle. The Chest likely made its way to England shortly after the battle, and was discovered by Warden Spooner while he was visiting New College properties in the village of Stanton St John, near Oxford, in 1905.
“The Courtrai Chest is an essential link in the scenography as oldest, best preserved and as such the most precious representation of the Battle of the Golden Spurs”, Mr Jambon said. “I am very pleased to hear New College agreed to loan the Chest to the city of Courtrai.”
The Counsellor for Culture Axel Ronse is also pleased about the loan. “ It is very important to us that we will be able to display the Chest in a church which dates from the time of the Battle of the Golden Spurs”, he said. “This way we can really convey the story of the battle, but also the story of the Council of Flanders and the way in which Hendrik Conscience wrote about it.”
Jan Jambon also presented the Dean of New College with a copy of the book “The Burgundians” by Bart Van Loo and enjoyed an impromptu tour of the College, during which he was surprised by a singing rehearsal in the chapel.