Mol, 1535. On the common land (‘vroente’) of the village (land used and managed in common) stands a house that should not have been there. More than a year earlier, the owner, Jan Boeys, had promised the bailiff Hendrik Vos to demolish this house, but this promise was never kept. Naturally, the villagers started to complain…

When Jan Gaus is appointed as the new bailiff, he in turn asks the owner Jan Boeys to demolish his house within six days. An attempt at bribery finally dissuades Jan Gaus, which leads to a tirade of insults. Boeys still refuses to demolish the house, which then prompts the bailiff to take legal action. The bailiff and the eldermen hear both parties separately at the courthouse ‘De Zwaan’. In the kitchen, where Jan and his wife eat and drink, there is a verbal confrontation. Later in the day, after the bailiff also attended another meeting in the hostel ‘De Ploeg’, the session is resumed. Uninvited, Jan Boeys and his wife enter the meeting room and attack bailiff Gaus with a bat. Jan Gaus, fearing that he would be hit on the head, managed to take the bat out of Jan Boeys’ hands. Jan Boeys immediately pulls out a knife and threatens the bailiff. Gaus, surprised and frightened, retreats to the gate and pulls his own knife, but Jan Boeys continues to approach him and drama ensues …

After the incident, Intendant Gaus could not say exactly how his knife had ended up in Boeys’ chest. Did he land the first blow, or did the victim more or less run into the blade against his will?
A day later, after confession and the last rites, Jan Boeys succumbed to his injuries. On Good Friday in 1536, the bailiff of Mol was granted a remission for his manslaughter.

To further explore the story of Jan Gaus, please see the General State Archive website (free account needed).

Many thanks to our volunteer Els Leanarts who transcribed this letter of grace !

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