(Amsterdam City Archives, Amsterdam, The Netherlands)

Keywords: Amsterdam, monuments, gable stones, tombstones, social differentiation

In a small alley in the centre of Amsterdam, today hardly noticed by anyone, an old gable stone reads: ‘1748 in troubled times founded / in times of peace perfectly build / in the Lord my hope is grounded / in whom I will be fulfilled (rendered from Dutch).
This stone connects the building of a new house to a specific historical event, the War of the Austrian Succession (1740-1748) and thus puts it firmly in the times experienced by the citizens of Amsterdam and the Dutch Republic. It is also a sign of piety, referring to afterlife, the time after death.
In pre-modern Amsterdam, most houses were marked by a gable stone showing an image, e.g. a scene from the Bible or an object related to the owner’s occupation, and often mentioning the year of construction (as did simple year-stones). They were markers of place. But mentioning a year meant marking time. This contribution looks into the distribution of these time markers and the differences between residential areas. Which social groups needed to mark their time?
Like the houses of the living, the houses of the death were marked too. Tombstones in churches, much more public spaces than nowadays, served as time markers of life after death. How do they compare to the time markers along the streets and canals of the city?

Relevance for the conference: Using modern techniques to get on overview of scattered data and put the in historical perspective.
Relevance for the session: How to understand temporal markers used in pre-modern Amsterdam.
Innovation: Year-stones are a neglected source of information and should be terated as key-elements in understanding how people in the past marked their own time.

  • Onno Boers, De gevelstenen van Amsterdam, Amsterdam 1992