RKD Netherland Institute for art History
Nowadays disputes between neighbours are sometimes settled by the presenter of the popular Dutch TV show De Rijdende Rechter (the itinerant judge). In the majority of cases the arguments are about something silly and the viewer finds it hard to understand why the quarrelling parties cannot come to a reasonable resolution themselves.
Such apparently trivial conflicts were also common in sixteenth-century Leiden. A case in point is that of Faes Aerntsz who, on 1 February 1546, is fed up with the sludge and 'other muck' coming into his home because of a leak in the house of his next-door neighbour, the cabinet maker Geryt Splintersz; you can imagine the situation. Faes files a complaint with the aldermen's court (schepenbank) demanding that, if the court rules in his favour, his neighbour Geryt must either repair the leaking gutter himself or have the problem fixed by qualified workmen.
Faes furthermore stipulates that, if Geryt fails to comply, he will have to pay Faes 25 Carolusguldens in damages, and the legal fees on top. Geryt, who ostensibly had little to say in defence of his negligence, chose the easiest and safest way out: he promises that on 8 February he will employ two or four workmen who will sort the problem out. It would have been helpful to have a Rijdende Rechter to mediate between disputatious neighbours in the sixteenth century.