It is not exaggerated to claim that the hermitage on the Schaelsberg, you are going to visit now, is the most well-known and probably the finest of our whole province. In a nutshell we want to inform the visitor of the most important facts in the history and building of this centuries-old hermit’s dwelling.
The year was 1688 when the Seigneur of Schaloen Castle, count Gerard Hoen of Cartiels, had the hermitage with chapel built on the spot where there had probably been a forester’s hut for centuries. The building was raised from marlstone. From the beginning a pious hermit moved into this lodging to spend his days in praying and mortification amidst the unspoilt nature.
From that year 1688 until 1930, so nearly two and a half centuries, the hermitage has been inhabited continuously by one or more hermits. All of them (16 in number) are known by name. We only mention the very first one Laurens Plum, the one, like Plum burried in the chapel, Arnuldus Haesen, and the most famous one Hendrikus Weerts, who had become a legend already in his lifetime. He lived here between 1860 and 1889 and served as a Zouave in the papal army for four years.
When the last hermit had left the building in 1930 it gradually fell into disrepair. On the initiative of Valkenburg Veldeke-circle a start of a drastic restoration was made in 1975, resulting in a finer building than ever before.
Like the surrounding wood the hermitage is in the possession of the Society for the Promotion of Nature Reserves in the Netherlands. Supervision and maintenance are now in the hands of the Foundation “Sjaesbergergangk” at Valkenburg.
The visitor finds a little building now, consisting of four parts, a choir with apse, the nave of the chapel and two simple little rooms with an upper floor. One of the rooms has a cellar. Presumably choir and apse are of an earlier date than the other parts. The building has been redecorated several times in the course of the years, mostly by the inmates themselves.
In former days the garden beside the hermitage was kept by the hermit himself. On a picturesque beautiful spot under the trees is an outdoor Way of the Cross, established in 1843 and restored in 1976. Mentionable from the interior are the two tombstones from 1706 and 1764 respectively, which are found in the wall between choir and nave, the big 5f. high wooden cross, probably dating from the 16th century, the indoor Way of the Cross from the 19th century and the ceiling paintings in the nave dating from 1715 and those in the apse made in 1903 by the then occupant Clemens Salingré. Perhaps the most interesting are the murals from about 1700 and appearing in 1975. They can be seen behind the altar.
In accordance with pious tradition the hermit lived from what he himself grew and what the neighbouring farmers brought him. When the man was starving too much he let it know to the inhabitants of the valley by ringing the bell.
Objective of the Foundation
The Foundation Sjaesbergergangk at Valkenburg sets out to promote the preservation of built and unbuilt objects of importance or being characteristic for the place or region they are situated in. This may be from historical or folkloristic point of view or because of style or position.
Translated by: Paul Vondenhoff (Voerendaal, Limburg)