The court of almshouses ‘De Armen de Poth’
Caring for the sick and the poor since 1350
The Brethren of ‘De Poth’
The Brotherhood of the Holy Spirit cared for the sick in Medieval Amersfoort and distributed alms of money or goods, known as ‘proven’. These alms were commonly called ‘De Poth’ and from this the brethren were dubbed Pothbroeders or Brethren of ‘De Poth’. The name first appeared officially in a charter dating from 1447. In c. 1525 the brethren moved from the Chapel of the Holy Spirit (now the home of the Lutheran Church in the Langestraat) to the present premises of ‘De Poth’. This is situated in an area already mentioned in 1388 and by chance called the ‘Pothof’. It came into the possession of ‘De Poth’ at the end of the 15th century.
The name Brethren of ‘De Poth’ was replaced by trustees at the beginning of the 17th century. The trustees deal with the administration of ‘De Poth’. Their main task is to manage the estate of ‘De Poth’. This consists of land and capital in addition to the court buildings. These, together with the modest proceeds from rentals, produce the income of the estate. This enables the Foundation to achieve its aims independently and without subsidies.
The Cell-sisters were originally housed in the Convent of St. Ursula, now the Marienhof (Kleine Haag). When they fell on hard times financially the brethren allowed them to move into the ‘Cell-sisters’ chamber in the grounds of ‘De Poth’, in 1547. They nursed victims of the plague until the last one died just before 1600. The patients stayed in a large plague-house in its own grounds which was demolished in 1892. Wealthy plague sufferers could rent isolated almshouses, sometimes with their own servants.
The main building
The main building consists of three parts, now joined under one roof. The Trustees’ chamber with its costly furnishings, built in the mid-16th century is at one end of the building, the Cell-sisters’ chamber is at the other end. The cell-sisters lived here as from 1547 and their chamber was occupied until 1920. It was later returned to its original state. The Cell-sisters’ chamber is now used for meetings of the residents and the trustees.
Distribution of alms
The former almshouse lies between the two ends of the building. It was built shortly after 1520 and contained the bakery. Loaves for distribution were baked here. Distributions were first held in the St. Johns Church, later in the distribution chamber and as from 1905 in the St. Rochus Chapel. Distribution for non-residents came to an end in 1962, for the residents in 1975.
The master’s house stands on the east side of the Trustees’ chamber. Formerly the master was responsible for the care of the sick, breadmaking and distributions. Now he acts as an intermediary between residents and trustees and he is also responsible for the day-to-day management of the court of almshouses.
‘De Armen de Poth’ Foundation
Brotherhoods were founded in the Middle Ages to give homeless people a roof over their heads and to provide the poor who were confined to their homes with the necessities of life. The care of the sick was another of their tasks, specially during outbreaks of the plague.
To this day ‘De Armen de Poth’ Foundation provides accommodation, but nowadays this is only for elderly people.
The St. Rochus Chapel was built c.1500. St. Rochus was the patron saint for protection against infectious diseases like the plague.
The chapel fell into disuse at the end of the 16th century. It served as a warehouse for many years and was renovated in 1905. From this time on it was used for the weekly distributions of alms. Conversions carried out later made the chapel suitable for various purposes.
The court of almshouses
Almost all of the 49 almshouses which are now part of ‘De Poth’ were built at the end of the 19th century when the court took on its present shape.
Several renovations and improvements including showers and central heating, have made the almshouses suitable for ‘De Poth’ to achieve its aim: to accommodate elderly people with a modest income for a small fee.