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Anomalous Chivalric Loyalty. Our Lady's Chapel, Genooi, Limburg, The Netherlands

If you follow the ancient processional way along the Meuse River north from Venlo for a few kilometers you'll come to a pleasant copse of trees in which is set the pretty "kepelke van Genuë". The chapel is devoted to Our Lady and it's modeled after the shrine at Loreto in Italy. There was a Marian Devotion here already in the early fifteenth century in the convent of Tertiary Franciscan Sisters, Mariëndael. The present-day chapel, however, was erected in 1631 but much restored or even rebuilt by that redoubtable neogothic architect Pierre Cuypers (1827-1921).

Cuypers's High Devotion to the Virgin was pictorialised by the famous atelier for stained glass windows of Frans Nicolas & Zonen (1880-1939) - well-know in the United States too. The chapel is indeed replete with over twenty large Marian stained glass windows dating from 1917. Together with the many candles and the bright colors of the stained glass, the atmosphere invites to quietude and other-worldly comtemplation.

I've been here many times and have always been struck by the anomaly of the pictured stained-glass window. In theme and even in execution it's so very different from the fervent Marian Mysticism of all the other windows. Admittedly, it's almost hidden behind a small staircase leading up to the balcony organ. Still, it must have a meaning and be part of the artistic 'programme' of Cuypers and Nicolas. But how I can't venture...

I see it as a stylised coat of arms. Central are the rampant lions and a knight's helmet topped by a kind of turban and another lion. There are the acanthus leaves, three yellow flowers. And at the bottom is an inscription banner: In amicitia fidelis, to be translated in this context of chivalry as: In loyal friendship. There's nothing Marian or even Christian about this. The phrase is from Seneca, the ancient Roman 'stoic'. Of course, much of Seneca was 'christianised' in the course of the Middle Ages. But still this window's intent seems to be very remote from the devotional Theme of the Chapel... I've followed Barbara Elaw's suggestions (see below) over the last few years but never came closer to a solution. Any ideas, anyone?

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Taken on February 10, 2012