Saturday, May 18, 2019

The Flemish Connection

'As searing a critique of our own times as is Arthur Millers The Crucible. ' EU Prize for Literature. 

Her Kind is based on the Sorcery Trial of Alice Kyteler- the infamous Flemish moneylender that lived in 14th century Kilkenny. I have been amazed and delighted with the interest in the novel, and the story behind it, especially the connection with Flanders, and the Flemish woman who made such an impression. 

Jose Kytler's Grave Stone
A lot of people who have read Her Kind, have been very curious about the existence of ancient Flemingstown.  The fact that Kilkenny has long been made up of an English town and an Irish town is well known, but not quite so well known is that there was once a third town - the town of the Flemings.  

Extract 'Her Kind' 
The Flemish settlers arrived -‘not long after the English invasion,’ (John A. Prim) and built their own separately walled town, with its own towers and gates. It's referred to in ancient documents as Flemings towne, or the ‘town of the Flemings. They were a colony of traders, fullers, cooks, brewers and weavers – who were invited over for the advancement of art and improvement of trade by the early inhabitants of Kilkenny. Well established by the 14th century, it was built where Switzer’s Asylum, (St James Asylum) existed. I would love to know where the town gate ended up, Prim recounts that it was moved and re-erected at New Key (his spelling)...its a location I'm not aware of, perhaps a Kilkenny historian out there can help us with that.. it features strongly in Her Kind, so it would be very exciting to locate the ancient gateway. 
In the meantime, in St Canice's cathedral, the grave slab of the prosperous merchant Jose Kyteler - can still be seen today. He died in 1280, and his slab is inscribed in Norman French requesting 'Stop and say a prayer, you who pass by here'.  His daughter Alice would go on to be the most well remembered of those Flemish Settlers, she would go on to become notorious. 

I was interviewed on Arena by Sean Rocks recently - we talked about Alice Kytler, Sorcery trials & Her Kind - put on the kettle, and have a listen HERE

1 comment:

Marie Kenny said...

I know that Switzer's asylum was up at the barracks at the castle Road, Niamh. New Quay/ Key is definitely something I'd like to look up. Great interest recently in walls and gates of the city, that makes your Her Kind so special and makes the connection to the present so strong.

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