How to Govern a Town

Geraardsbergen Manuscript, Text 23 (fols. 112v-113r)

Brussels - KBR - 837-45, fol. 112v: Heading and beginning of Text 23 (by courtesy of KBR Brussels)

Brussels – KBR – 837-45, fol. 112v: Heading and beginning of Text 23 (by courtesy of KBR Brussels)

In this twenty line verse text some general guidelines for good government are listed. Most of these suggestions are still valid today (on national level): a town should be governed harmoniously; the public welfare should be taken into account; justice should be equal for the rich and poor; one should be friends with the neighbouring towns; its freedom should not be violated; and those who misbehave should be ‘thrown out’. The text ends with a warning: ‘(Pay attention to this, because) it is an old lesson. If these guidelines are not followed, the town will be in fear! And (then) everyone should take a good look at himself, because he will die one day (and should better have confessed his sins by then).’

Wedding room of the City Hall in Brussels (image published in Hogenelst and Van Oostrom 2002, see: Further reading)

Wedding room of the City Hall in Brussels (image published in Hogenelst and Van Oostrom 2002, see: Further reading)

 

This reminder for governours to do an honest and a good job is a kind of short verse text that could be found posted on a town hall wall. Several examples of this and similar texts can still be seen in the Low Countries, painted on the beams supporting ceilings of large rooms:

 

 

See also: the complete table of contents.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *