Saturday, April 20, 2019

Rainy Day in Ghent


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The 26 eclectic-genre short stories for my #AtoZChallenge are excerpts from travelogue notes by
novel character Gahlen, who first appeared in SHARDS OF MEMORY – Oral History in a Heartbeat.

Each A-to-Z daily post is a complete, stand-alone tale.

By Hubert van Eyck - The Yorck Project (2002) 10.000 Meisterwerke der Malerei (DVD-ROM), distributed by DIRECTMEDIA Publishing GmbH. ISBN: 3936122202., Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=150703
Rainy Day in Ghent
Genre: Christian Fiction
(391 words)

“I opened this place twenty-five years ago,” the elderly restaurant owner said. “Recently, I expanded but retained Ghent’s artistic ambiance. Were you up to St. Bavo’s?”
“I viewed ADORATION OF THE MYSTIC LAMB earlier.” My guide indicated the restaurant owner readily discussed van Eyck’s oaken panel ployptych on rainy days.
“Yes, yes, of course,” he said. “Such history – stolen panels once lost for a hundred years; then the ployptych sent to France for safekeeping until Germans swiped it. After yet another recovery, two panels stolen in a 1934 blackmail scheme. Only one panel was ever returned.”
He said only one panel was returned, I noticed, not that only one had been located.
“The Ghent Altarpiece is a world masterpiece,” he continued. “Whoever stole the panels knew what leverage they possessed.”
“Leverage for what?”
“A message was sent directly to Bishop Coppieters demanding money. But authorities refused to allow payment.”
“Why was the ransom note directed to the bishop?”
“Aha, you pounce upon an unusual circumstance that no one has publicly addressed over the years. Yes, yes, why did the bishop receive the note? The panels were stolen from his church, but was that the only reason? Also, what was the bishop’s role in the theft?”
“You believe Bishop Coppieters was involved?”
“Certainly. The exorbitant ransom request suggests the theft was not about money. Another motive was in play. Consider the bishop’s attempt to recuperate the panels. He borrowed from the church treasury to meet part of the ransom. How he arranged to pay is unknown.”
“Was the theft a warning of sorts?”
“My theory rests on the history of an Irish saint. He came to perform good deeds in Ghent and was killed. Anger grew against pagans suspected of the heinous act. Blaming the saint’s death on the work of the devil, an underground group performed exorcisms on those declared guilty. The cure was far worse than the crime. Relatives vowed revenge.”
The owner stood.
Hastily, I wrapped all my confusion into one question. “Do van Eyck paintings and exorcisms have something in common?”
“Yes, yes,” the owner said, sitting again. “The bishop was trained to perform exorcisms. Who better for descendants to enact vengeance upon than one who continued the practice of exorcisms? Stealing The Righteous Judges panel answers that question. Exorcists had acted as judges; thieves extracted righteous justice.”

*****





21 comments:

  1. Although I've been to Ghent I knew nothing about any of this! I know a good restaurant though - marvelous mussels, wicked waffles and beautiful beer

    !My A-Z of Children's Stories

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  2. Ah, yes, Belgian waffles, and of course beer (but not at the same meal.) Potato Fries with mayo are also a big deal in Belgium.

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  3. Fascinating tale! You are a master storyteller!

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    1. Trisha, this is the most fun I have had with AtoZ because of all the experimenting I am doing with short story genres. I certainly appreciate your comments.

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  4. Exorcism, robbery, revenge - that about covers it.

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  5. That sounds like a good yardstick for measuring the ingredients of a story, Kristin.

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  6. Who are pagans? I have to find out. I shall understand some religious history of West Asia and Europe.

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    1. Those who were considered non-believers in God were called pagans.

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  7. This is intriguing enough for me to look up some of its history. Nicely done.

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    1. Thanks, Alana. Part my enjoyment with writing is the research and researching art is a real rabbit hole, going deeper and deeper . . .

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  8. Beautiful info-dump - makes you hang on every word - not sure what if fact and what is fiction. Love the story. - Erin (http://www.erinpenn.com/blog/)

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    1. Some fiction mixed in with fact but glad you liked the story, Erin.

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  9. Oops - you don't know me from Adam. I meant "info-dump" in that I loved the amount of great information in the story without it every being boring. Very well crafted.

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    1. Good one, Erin, no problem. The theft of panels is true and one panel is still unaccounted for. The fun part is building a tale around the facts.

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  10. I think I got sidetracked by the thought of a Rainy day in Gwent (in Wales) it rains a lot in Wales . . .Although not in the last couple of days it has been Sunny and Hot . . . OK I am not in Gwent I am in Shropshire about half a mile from the Welsh border but it has been sunny across Wales which is a surprise for this time of year.

    I do love some of those old religious Panels and Icons I have pondered creating an icon a few times lately which I might do. . . .

    Keep up the good work Z is getting closer. . .

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    1. Hmmm . . . are you going by Rob Z so you can use it as the topic for the final day! Hope it stops raining soon in Shropshire.

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  11. thank you for stopping by! appreciate the support! the road ahead is very long and yes there has been a light that has shown thru!

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  12. Then keep on truckin', 2 gators, 'cause the end is very near!

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  13. I love a good art theft and Van Eyck sure fits the bill. The pace of this story is masterful. Although it is a stationary setting with no action, you feel swept along by the telling. Well done! Sleep Hygiene to Avoid Burnout

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  14. Thank you, Heather. This was a fun story to research and write. So true that a Van Eyck is an enticing target.

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  15. Plying May-catch-up and enjoying posts at leisure. I love the art of that period - and your tale.

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