Brabant Studenterlaug: it’s (almost) a holiday, so we’re going to work

In the Talking Past section, we dive into the rich Heritage collections from Tilburg University. This time, Ad van Pinxteren, information specialist at the Brabant Collection, tells how the members of the Brabant Student Guild spent their holidays building chapels and solving ‘Brabant’ problems.

Oosterhout. Maria Chapel, built by the Brabant Student Guild, 1952. Photo postcard published by the Provincial Carnation Fund Noord-Brabant; signature: pbk-O 31 / 420.11 Mari (1). Photo: Martien Coppens. Dutch Photo Museum, Rotterdam | The Brabant Collection, Tilburg University

Summer is just around the corner, and Tilburg University is partially taking a break again. Students temporarily turn their backs on the university to spend their holidays at home (or in remote places). Contact with Tilburg appears to have been broken for two months. The story of Brabant’s Student Guild (BSG) shows a reverse movement at the beginning of the summer holidays.

Back to North Brabant

During the Brabant Landdag in 1926 in Oirschot, the Brabant Student Guild of Our Lady was founded by two Delft students. It was intended for students from Brabant, who were enrolled at any university. During the summer months, they returned in large numbers to their parents’ home somewhere in North Brabant. Every year, the Guild organized a summer activity in another Brabant village with the aim of promoting contact between Catholic Brabant students and the locals. This would benefit the performance of the social role and tasks that the graduates would play after completing their studies (often in their own region).

The program for a country day had a number of fixed elements: a holy mass, flagging at the archers’ guild, a meal and a celebratory speech. The first time this was provided by Dr. PC de Brouwer (1874-1961). This priest contributed greatly to the liberation of North Brabant and the increase of Brabant’s self-awareness.

The opening of Tilburg University (predecessor of Tilburg University) in 1927 meant one boost for Studenterlauget. The Catholic background originally played an important role in the functioning of BSG. Around 1930, two priests became active within BSG, causing a directional struggle: the preacher Raymundus van Sante and Frans Siemer, priest and member of Tilburg’s brothers. It went so far that the followers of the first fell out of the Guild after a number of years.

build chapels

Pastor Frans Siemer (1887-1966) played an important role in the Student Guild. He was also good friends with Jos. Bedaux (1910-1989), the architect known for a number of buildings on the Tilburg University campus. Early in his career, Siemer encouraged Bedaux to continue in architecture. Through his contact with Siemer, Bedaux was also able to become a member of Sint-Leonardus, the student association for the Catholic courses in Tilburg. There he met Frans van de Ven (1907-1999). He was one of the founders of Brabantia our, a movement related to BSG that worked to strengthen the Brabant identity. As a professor in Tilburg, Van de Ven played an important role in the choice of architects for new construction due to the (then) Hogeschool Tilburg.

Bedaux also became a member of the Brabant Student Guild of Our Lady in 1933. It was also the first year that a chapel of the participating students was built on the site of the summer camp. The design of this chapel, in Huijbergen, is designed by Jos. bedaux. In the years that followed, even during World War II, guild chapels were built around fifteen places, always based on a design by Bedaux.

Solving problems in Brabant

After World War II, the summer camp took on a new meaning: it became a so-called sociographic labor camp. The participating students conducted local research, among other things on the basis of studies in which specific Brabant problems were clarified. It concerned local and regional issues such as the state of prosperity (or the deprivation that Brabant felt) and the function of the middle class. As future intellectual leaders of Brabant, students were able to contribute to the solution of these problems.

BSG’s activities came to a low ebb in the following decades, and Tilburg lost the central position it had held for years. But in 1973, BSG was revived from Wageningen. It is from here that Brabant’s Student Guild arranges activities to this day, and not just during the summer months.

The Brabant collection and also the University Library’s central collection contains a lot of material where more information can be found about Brabant’s Student Guild and the people involved: pictures, but especially books (including anniversary collections) and articles.

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