The Zwanenbroedershuis at the Hinthamerstraat in ‘s-Hertogenbosch has two main functions. First, it acts as private house, where the members of the Illustre Lieve Vrouwe Confraternity meet regularly. In addition it serves as museum Zwanenbroedershuis, where interested people can get to know the history of the Illustre Lieve Vrouwe Confraternity and see the culturally and historically valuable objects held by the confraternity. The museum is open several hours a day each week to visit and also guided tours are given. In addition, the Zwanenbroedershuis is open for special occasions upon request.
The collection of the confraternity consists mainly of objects related to the history of the confraternity. Most of the collection is manufactured in the past in command of the confraternity or it has been donated (mostly by members). The top pieces of the museum are located in the display case in the museum room. These include the two altar cabinats that were part of the Marian altar that Adriaen van Wesel commissioned between 1475 and 1477. The cabinets show the image of John of Patmos and the vision of Emperor Augustus.
Some other images and image groups that originally probably were part of this altar, are today in the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam, The Museum Catharijneconvent in Utrecht, the Gruuthuse Museum in Bruges and in the Williams College Museum of Art in Williamstown (Massachusetts, USA). In museums in Berlin and Madrid are two shutters, most likely painted by Hieronymus Bosch.
In the display case are also nine large choir books from the sixteenth century containing polyphonic music: seven manuscripts and two editions. The manuscripts are very special: apart from these seven in ‘s-Hertogenbosch only six similar choir books with polyphonic music in Holland are located in Leiden. Three of the manuscripts of the confraternity originate from the workshop of the famous music copyist Petrus Alamire. Alamire was a versatile figure, who mainly worked for the Habsburg Court, but also for various other Royal houses and banking families in Europe. Three other choral books, as well as the polyphonic music in the further Gregorian Codex Smijers, were written by Philippe de Spina. DeSpina worked thirty-five years as a singer for the confraternity, but had to leave ‘s-Hertogenbosch suddenly during the iconoclasm of August 1566 due to sympathies with the new religion. In addition to the polyphonic choir books in the archives of the confraternity, six additional manuscripts with Gregorian chant can be found, written by the brothers of the Common life, the brothers of’ ‘s-Hertogenbosch. To accompany the book, published in 2002: “Gegeven the Sangeren” by Véronique Roelvink are seven works recorded by the Egidius Quartet (www.egidiuskwartet.nl). Click on the links below to hear some examples:
Another unique collection is the set of eighteen pewter drinking jugs from the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. The jugs were used by the brothers during their meals to drink wine; each sworn Brother had his own drinking cup. On the belly of the jugs is a picture of the Lily among the thorns with the word Sicut. On the lids of the jugs are the name of the user and his code of arms engraved. The confraternity currently still holds the jugs of, among others, William of Orange and the dukes van Buren (Frederik, Floris and Maximilian of Egmond). The pewter drinking jugs at one point were replaced by glass ones. The confraternity still possesses a collection of glassware, from the end of the 19th century.
At the end of the nineteenth century, the confraternity a 560-part tableware in blue and white was designed by the Porceleyne Fles, Delft. The crockery was made between 1881 and 1885 and its various components contain the logo of the confraternity (the Lily among the thorns) and the motto ‘Lilium inter Spinas Sicut’. Many years the dinnerware was used for the fraternal meal, but the most beautiful pieces, including two large soup terrines, are in the display cabinet nowadays.
In the main hall a neo-Gothic alcove can be seen. The neo-Gothic character of the zwanenbroedershuis is also visible in other parts of the zwanenbroederhuis. For instance a neo-Gothic stove is located on the first floor, which is still in use in winter. Various neo-Gothic cabinets adorn the walls of the different rooms. Two of the cabinets are donated by the Knighthood of Noord-Brabant, with which the Illustre Lieve Vrouwe Confraternity remains in close contact.
In the rooms are over fifty antique chairs, the backs of which bear the family coat of arms of members of the confraternity. In the Zwanenbroedershuis in many places family coat of arms can be found. For example, there are the weapon paintings that show us who were members of the confraternity in previous centuries and the coat of arms with the weapons of the present members. In addition to this public display of arms, there are the books with coat of arms; the oldest was created in 1606. In the later coat of arms books the weapons of the brothers are signed; with the signature membership was officially confirmed . Various objects in the house show Zwanenbroeders. There are paintings of Queen Juliana and Princess Beatrix, and busts of William of Orange, Queen Wilhelmina and Prince Hendrik. Wilhelmina and Henry donated the confraternity a gilt silver jar in 1904 of which the lid contains a soaring Swan. The jug is still in use every year during the fraternal meal for a toast to Her Majesty.
Also remains of the medieval fraternal home are still kept in the current Zwanenbroedershuis: two of the shutters that were part of the in the sixteenth century modernised building that Gijsbert van der Poorten had donated the Brothers. Also a small painting showing the former house shows in its full glory, is hanging in the current house. The house apparently attracted the attention of artists, as several images of the house have been painted. The current Zwanenbroedershuis breathes an atmosphere of ancient traditions. One of the oldest habits to which the Illustre Lieve Vrouwe Confraternity still attaches great importance, is the joint consuming of a meal. This happens once a year in the form of the fraternal meal, which is still in the Zwanenbroedershuis.