For centuries, the fair was a great day for every village. People partied, danced and drank. However, all this drinking regularly led to fights, often resulting in death. In August 1520, a group of young people from Schaerbeek went to Sint-Joost-ten-Noode. While the group was having a drink, they got into a discussion about the travelling ball that was taking place in the square. As more and more men got involved, the discussion went off the rails. The rivalry between the neighbouring villages led to a bitter fight.

“Those from Schaerbeek have allied themselves against us!”, shouted a shepherd from Saint-Josse. As the blacksmith’s son from Schaerbeek laid on the ground and was threatened, Jan Poels came to the aid of his armed compatriot, urging his comrades with the words, “Let’s go and deal with those from Schaerbeek”. During the fight, Leunis Rogge was so badly injured that he died of his wounds a few weeks later. Jan also did not come out of the fight unscathed. Considered a prime suspect by the court officer, he fled Brabant. He asked the monarch for a pardon. In his request he indicated that he had already reconciled with the next of kin. In June 1522 he obtained a pardon.

To learn futher about the story of Jan Poels, see the General State Archives website (free account needed).

David Vinckboons – Sint-Joriskermis (Palais Dorotheum, Austria)

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