VAN COOTH AND THE DRAGON

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We all know the story of Saint George and the Dragon, but did you know that this legend has a connection to Breda? In 2016, Studio Kratje Beeld (former students of AKV St. Joost) created a mural in the Doelsteeg (roughly translated the ‘target alley’), a nod to that story.

The colourful mural consists of several characters that are putting together a mechanical dragon. These characters are a reference to the vocational school that used to be situated at the corner of the van Coothplein (square). The dragon refers to the Saint George Schuttersgilde (shooter’s guild).

Photo by Ralph Roelse

The vocational school
In the 19th century, Leopold Frans Willen van Cooth was one of the wealthiest men in West-Brabant. Leopold was a strong supporter of public education, so he made sure that after his death 300.000 guilders were made available for the establishment of a vocational school, building homes and a prize for ‘students of good behaviour and no absence’. The school opened in 1886 and started with about fifty students that learned carpentry, making furniture, forging and painting.

Teacher and students carpentry and forgery around 1890 | image via Stadsarchief Breda

Teacher with painting students around 1890 | image via Stadsarchief Breda

The Vocational school in 1900 | image via Stadsarchief Breda

The vocational school burnt down in 1979.

The fire in 1979 | image via Stadsarchief Breda

Saint George Guild
The Doelsteeg lies between the Ginnekenstraat and Concordiastraat, which is usually busy with pedestrians. The name ‘doel’ (target) steeg (alley) is named after the Saint George Guild, that had their targets (training grounds) at the Doelsteeg from 1644.

The Saint George Guild was a schuttersgilde (shooter’s guild) that used crossbows. They originally had their training grounds at the Valkenberg Park, in the -then called- Doelstraat (later the Zwaanstraat – Swan street). In 1644 the guild had to clear their targets and the city provided them with new targets at the Doelsteeg. The Saint George targets stretched from the Concordiastraat to the van Coothplein.

Photo by Edwin Wiekens

Photo by Edwin Wiekens

Photo by Edwin Wiekens

The shooter’s guild was named after the legend of George and the Dragon. A story about good and evil; when christian knight George arrives in a kingdom, he learns that a dragon has been terrorising the town for years. Every year, the citizens would sacrifice a virgin, and in exchange the beast would leave the citizens aline. After a draw it turns out that the princess is next to be sacrificed. On the condition that the kingdom becomes christian, George slays the dragon and saves te princess.

This story became (and still is) very popular and since then Saint George has been the patron saint of many cities and even countries.

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