The inhabitants of the municipality of Beesel have 'Dragon blood' in their veins. Therefore, Beesel also is called Dragons village. Anywhere in the municipality you will get into contact with the Dragon and Dragon traditions.
What is 'Draaksteken'?
'Draaksteken' (slaying the dragon) is a large open-air play performed every seven years. Beesel provides the centrepiece for the spectacle and during the event, the entire village, which is transported back to mediaeval times for the occasion, is resplendent with dragons on every street corner. The theatrical play, with music, singing, staged fights, drama and humour, is based on the legend of Saint George and the dragon; the battle between good and evil made physical! The cast of about 400 (amateurs) all live or were born in Beesel. The villagers are responsible for the entire production: they build the set (which includes an entire village and castle), make the clothes and of course construct the fourteen metre long, fire breathing dragon. During the dragon slaying festival, the inhabitants deck out their houses with dragon flags, banners and other objects.
Centuries' old tradition
The narrative tradition informing the play featuring Saint George and the dragon is centuries old. In the 17th century, Beesel witnessed the establishment of a citizens' militia; Saint George was their patron saint. This militia or guild started 'slaying dragons' in annual processions through the village. The first mention of the play in Beesel in writing dates from 1736. Since 1967, 'Draaksteken' is performed in a fixed location adjacent to the Nieuwenbroek castle. Stichting Draaksteken is the organisation which facilitates this very special tradition.
Draaksteken; special ‘intangible’ heritage
Draaksteken contributes to what is known as ‘intangible’ heritage, as apposed to a material or physical heritage such as monuments and historical objects. Another characteristic of this form of heritage is its transference from generation to generation and from person to person. Draaksteken in Beesel is an ardent tradition embracing the entire Beesel community. Beesel is known as the 'Dragon Village' and 'dragon blood' runs deep in the veins of the villagers. Draaksteken is a singular tradition and one reason the Minister elevated Draaksteken to a place on the National Inventory of Intangible Cultural Heritage in the Netherlands in 2012.
Draaksteken’s presence permeates the entire village
Unmissable: the huge dragon on the roundabout! Dragons are everywhere: on street name boards, manhole covers, gates and of course on the blue plaques. Take a seat on or near the ceramic dragon's tail. Look for the dragon's footprint or find out more about Draaksteken from the information boards. Take a walk through the village or book a guided tour with one of Beesel's local expert guides. In short: submerge yourself in the world of dragons.