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Sights in Stavoren

The Woman of Stavoren

The lady of Stavoren

When you sail into the port of Stavoren, you will be welcomed by a statue of a little lady with a pointy hat: the lady of Stavoren. Longingly looking out over the sea, she stands beside the old bridge, waiting for her ships to come back with treasure. The lady of Stavoren tells the tale about a wealthy merchant’s widow that once lived in Stavoren and, despite her wealth, always wanted more. Stavoren used to be a rich, intriguing place, that gained city rights as the first place in the province Friesland. It became a member of the Hanseatic, a collaboration between merchants from different cities in the Netherlands, that dominated the North and Baltic Sea for a long time. Grain was an important income in the Netherlands and the Frisian skippers were therefore vitally important. Floods, wars and the port that had silted up were events that Stavoren had not foreseen. Stavoren no longer played a role in the grain trade and the end of the Middle Ages. Stavoren fell into poverty. The lady of Stavoren is the tale that symbolizes this puzzling demise.

Folktale of the lady of Stavoren

A wealthy merchant’s widow in Stavoren lived in a house with golden floors and owned more ships than all merchants together. Despite her wealth, was the urge for even more wealth and she was never satisfied with what she had. The instructed a skipper to find the most precious possession in the world and bring it to her. The skipper came back with a precious load of grain, but when she saw this she became so furious she ordered the man to throw the grain into the sea. A passer-by advised her not to do this as the grain would be worth gold if she were to fall into poverty. When she heard this, she took of her ring and threw it into  the sea as well. Her words were: ‘As I will never find this ring, so will I never fall into poverty’. There are several versions about the outcome, but one of them is that the passer-by tells here that she will find the ring and in that moment, because of her arrogance, will fall into poverty. As expected, the woman eats a herring some time later and finds her golden ring. From that moment on, she falls into poverty.

About the lady of Stavoren

The statue of the lady of Stavoren is build next to the old bridge. This bridge is the bridge between the harbour and city. The statue of the lady looks longingly out over the sea, waiting for her ships to come back, not knowing they all sank. The story has been rewritten by several writers over the years, including the brothers Grimm. The moral of the story can be summarized in the popular Dutch saying ‘pride comes before the fall’.