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On-line version ISSN 2411-7870
Print version ISSN 1021-545X


VERSTEGEN, R.. Fundamina (Pretoria) [online]. 2014, vol.20, n.2, pp.993-1005. ISSN 2411-7870.

The harbor city of Newport on the Flemish coast was, at the time of the reformation in the sixteenth century, a turning place for oppressed adherents of the "new religion" searching protection for themselves and their fortunes in protestant England, and "heretics" returning from England with secret correspondence, suspected books and even weapons. The repression could be severe: the tongue pierced with a glowing bar, death at the stake followed by exposure of the corpse at the gallows, and confiscation of all possessions. Fortunately there was also a wide range of other penalties ranging from house arrest to lifelong banishment from all countries ruled over by the Spanish king. At that time there was in the church of Newport an altarpiece representing the presentation to King Herod of St. John's head on a plate during a banquet in the king's palace. A striking detail: Herodias was piercing John's tongue with a fork, in accordance with a legend going back to St. Jerome. This legend was taken up in medieval mystery plays and finally even found its way to the art of Rubens himself. The link between civil penalty and legend seems to be limited to the archeology of psychological structures and reflexes.

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