Last Friday, the 27th edition of the Pedellendag or beadles day has taken place in Rotterdam, organized by the Bureau van de Pedel of Erasmus University. During the day, beadles coming from (almost) every university in Netherlands gather with the intent of discussing issues and visiting the university’s facilities and the hosting city.

Two female beadles as Erasmus University representatives

The beadles gathered at Erasmus MC around 12 to have lunch at the education center of Erasmus MC. The visitors were welcomed by the dean of the faculty and consequently the group took a guided tour of the renowned Skills Lab and 3D lab at Medical Center. The tour continued to the center of Rotterdam, with visits to the Museum Rotterdam and Timmerhuis. Traditional photos of the beadles group were taken and the day ended with drinks and a walking dinner.

Marleen van Kester and Nancy Tulner have been beadles for nine and five years respectively. “There is more than one beadle per university. There are so many events and appearances to attend to that there is a need for more than one beadle. At the moment, Erasmus University has four”, they tell. “Being a beadle used to be a job for men, especially in medieval times. Times have changed, more and more women are becoming beadles nowadays. I would say that, to be a beadle you have to be passionate about the university that you are representing, and obviously you have to enjoy being around people.” Van Kester and Tulner were this year’s beadles for EUR at the event.

Beadles day in the Netherlands

The Rector Magnificus giving a speech

The first Pedellendag was instituted at the end of the 1980s, it was organized by Tom Molendijk, Erasmus University’s former beadle, consequently the event was hosted in Rotterdam. At this year’s event, all universities were represented with the exception of Radboud University in Nijmegen and the Nyenrode business school. Moreover, a beadle from Hasselt University in Belgium joined the reunion.

During the beadle day and to any other official ceremony, beadles wear togas. This piece of clothing is usually black with the exception of Maastricht University’s beadle who wears a dark red toga. To complete the outfit, beadles wear a hat and a clothing item similar to a scarf which they wear around their necks. The color, the writings on the item and the fabric depends on the university.

A centuries old figure

The role of beadles has its origins in medieval times. The term was firstly used in the religious environment to indicate someone who assists in religious functions. Later on, the term came to be used in the academic environment. Once again, the term was used to identify someone working as an assistant.

The role of beadles has evolved with the ages, yet its core duties have always been of representational and organizational nature within the educational sphere. Nowadays, the figure of beadles is still preserved among the oldest universities in Europe. Yet, it is in countries like the UK, the Netherlands and Belgium that beadles’ reunions are more popular and have assumed a traditional and ceremonial dimension.