In Memoriam prof. dr. Jan van Herwaarden (1940-2023)

Emeritus professor Jan van Herwaarden (1940) passed away on December 27. The medieval scholar Van Herwaarden joined the legal predecessor of the EUR in 1971 and remained affiliated with the Erasmus School of History, Culture and Communication until his retirement in 2005. 

He started his career as the secretary of the preparatory committee of the Faculty of Societal History, which took off in 1979. The year before, Van Herwaarden obtained his doctorate cum laude for the monumental study Opgelegde bedevaarten (Imposed Pilgrimages), which made him one of the great Dutch scholars on the practices of imposing pilgrimages in urban jurisdiction in the Netherlands during the late Middle Ages.

The current ESHCC bears traces of what the preparatory committee came up with at the time. It is, therefore, no exaggeration to say that Van Herwaarden contributed to the fundamentals of our school. Students enjoyed his story telling talents and lectures on pilgrimages, crusades, urban history and Erasmus. 

In 1994, he became endowed Professor of Cultural History at the Dr. Elie van Rijckevorsel chair. Despite gaining international recognition, notably in the esteemed anthology 'Between Saint James and Erasmus,' published by Brill in 2003, he did not attain the full professorship in pre-industrial societies. The faculty's preference in 1982 leaned towards cultural historian Willem Frijhoff, whom Van Herwaarden greatly admired. Frijhoff's departure to the Vrije Universiteit in 1997 was perceived by Van Herwaarden as a substantial loss for Rotterdam. Initially enlisted on a temporary basis to fill the vacant chair, Van Herwaarden retained the professorship until his retirement. 

Van Herwaarden was the Erasmian conscience of our university: 'ubi bene, ibi patria', as he himself translated it with 'where you feel good, there is your homeland'. Whether in Rotterdam, Italy, or, most importantly, in Krimpen aan den IJssel surrounded by the warmth of family and close friends, Van Herwaarden found his home. Beyond his extensive private library, he was a devoted husband, father, father-in-law, and grandfather.

We express our heartfelt gratitude to him for the unwavering dedication and tireless efforts he invested in advancing our faculty, leaving an indelible mark on both our academic community and the broader field.

Paul van de Laar, head of department of history

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