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Vismarkt 16, 3000 Leuven
De blauwe schuit

Dive into our history

Ships on wheels being pulled overland during all types of celebrations is a very old and widespread tradition. As early as 2600 BC the Babylonians pulled a ship through the streets on New Year.

In ancient Greece and Rome the same tradition was held in honor of the wine god Dionysus. And our neighbours the Germans did it to celebrate the fertility goddess Nertus.

These riding ships were usually manned by a slave who was crowned a king for only one day.

One of the explanations for the word carnival is that it was derived from the Latin ‘carrus navalis’ meaning ship wagon.

That’s exactly how it was introduced in our regions at the end of medieval times; as a Mardi gras float fully populated by caricatures of impoverished people. They all shared a great vice or defect which has offered the prospect of recovery. Together they formed a guild who sought a safe haven on the Blue Barge.

People of all walks of life were welcome provided they were acting as sinful as they already did.

Expired nobles, wealthy sons, greedy monks, merchants, stupid, horny nuns and sacked students: they are only relieved of their membership when they (re)find their wisdom, or marry rich. Murderers, pirates, prostitutes, arsonists and traitors are excluded.

It goes without saying that all of the above resulted in wild parties and excessive drinking. Signs of these infamous boat-guilds were found in Antwerp, Breda, Nijmegen, Utrecht and Bergen op Zoom.

They portrayed themselves as real cabaret groups. By the means of jokes and mockery they shared teir vision on society and the material zeitgeist of their fellow citizens. They also denounced the catholic authorities, making fun of religion and everything sacred.

Hence the name ‘Blue Barge’. The barge or ship as a medieval symbol of religious institutions and the color blue representing their wapon of satire, comedy and parody. This take on the Blue Barges history is well represented in Hieronymus Bosch’s painting of a party ship called ‘De Blauwe Scuut’.

The name ‘Blauwe Scuut’ or ‘Blue Barge’ first emerged in 1413 in a poem by the illustrious Jacob van Oestvoren. It is a poem designed to be recited on Mardi Gras.

De Blauwe Scuut is een uitnodiging aan
“…Alle ghesellen van wilde manieren
Te comen in die Blauwe Scuut
Ende in der Blauwer Scuten ghilde
Sijn si onedel of van den scilde…”

Roughly translated it goes like this: ‘All followers of manners wild should come to the Blue Barge and his guild when they are not noble and sinfull’.

The house in which ‘De Blauwe Schuit’ is located has a rich past. In medieval times this site was the home for Augustijnen. Around the turn of the century the building was owned by the renowned wine merchant Boon Hecking.

On May 10, 1975 this stately mansion would continue his history as a cozy pub called ‘De Blauwe Schuit’.