January 2012

saint anthony

The 17th of January was once the special day to celebrate the patron saint of all crosseurs in the crosse region around the cities of Mons (South Belgium) and Maubeuge (North France) in the ancient county of Hainaut. On this day people from the region joined in a pilgrimage from Mons to the St Anthony chapel near the village of Havré to ask the saint for protection against the plague.
Also the many crosseurs joined in this pilgrimage holding proudly their crosse club over their shoulders. When they arrived after a walk of more than 10 kilometres they put a crosse club in the hand of the statue of St Anthony and they participated in a special mass.
After the religious duties in and near the chapel the people stayed to meet each other, to sing and dance, to drink and to play games. The crosseurs started to play their game in the fields around the chapel. The final target of the game was the door of the chapel. Late in the afternoon the crosseurs returned to Mons stopping at every tavern on its way to a traditional, copious meal of rabbit sprinkled with beer and wine. They sang over and over again the ancient song of St Anthony:

A Saint Antoine,                              On the day of St Anthony,
on va crocher,                                  we are going to play crosse,
avec ‘n soule et ‘n macquet.          with a ball and a club.

When diseases like the plague became more and more under control the interest in making pilgrimages to Havré dwindled and eventually stopped. The crosseurs however continued for many years to come to hold a pilgrimage to the chapel to celebrate St Anthony who had become their patron saint. After the Second World War when also the interest in the game of crosse declined as well as the interest in the pilgrimage to Havré.
Today the chapel is in a dilapidated state and the door seems to be definitely closed.

Just a few days ago we received an interesting email from Andrew Gauld, Scotsman and a golfing pro in Germany, the author of the ‘Golfer’s Pocket Referee/Der kleine Platzrichter’. Some time ago he acquired an ancient colf slof (the metal head of a colf club). Finding such colf slofs is not extremely exceptional. The game was very popular in the Low Countries between the 13th and 18th century. However this slof was made of bronze while normally a tin-lead alloy was used. The size of the slof is 14 centimetres; the weight was not less than 500 grams.

slof mussel back

To get to know more about this interesting find we brought in our friend and colf/kolf expert, Do Smit, member of the Kolf Society St Eloy Utrecht, member of the Foundation Early Golf and webmaster of the Royal Netherlandish Kolf Federation’s Web Museum. He examined the pictures of the bronze slof and came to the following findings. The slof was made for a left-handed player because the right side is flat while the left side has a mussel back.
Normally such slofs were made of a tin-lead alloy and therefore not so exceptional to find them. Slofs were also made of bronze and copper while children often played with wooden slofs.
Copper and bronze ‘heads’ were more uncommon because the material was more expensive and furthermore casting moulds were needed. The tin-lead heads were often just cut out of flat plates and folded or slipped around the end of a wooden shaft.

slof lines

The most interesting part of this slof is the sole. Looking at the lines at the side of the slof and the difference in colour it looks like that an additional plate of another material was fixed to the bronze sole. This is unique. It could be that this iron plate was attached because therefore the slof could perhaps more glide somewhat easier over the ice.
On the other hand, the striking face is slightly damaged which could imply that the colf club was used mainly on land. Based on material found at the excavation place the club could be dated between 1585 and 1625. This period lies still somewhat before the real start of the Little Ice Age (1650 until the end of the 18th century), so probably the colf club was used more on land than on the frozen canals, lakes, rivers and ponds.
The slof was probably found near the city of Haarlem in the Netherlands.
Its size (14 centimetres) and weight (500 grams) are also remarkable for not many slofs of that size have been found so far.

If you found or possess a colf slof please tell us about where you got it, the kind of material (if you know) and the size and weight of the slof.