The story of Saint Yvo (1253-1303)

Without being sworn in to the Bar it is not possible to call yourself an advocate (lawyer; advocaat) in the Dutch Caribbean. Being sworn in as an lawyer is for any beginner a high point, a clear start. The lawyer undertakes responsibility and does this under oath.

Art. 3 par. 2 of the Dutch Caribbean ‘Advocatenlandsverordening 1959‘ [Lawyers National Ordinance 1959] prescribes the following oath or affirmation:

“I swear (affirm) loyalty to the King, compliance with the Charter and the National Regulations, respect for the judicial authorities and that I shall not recommend or defend a case which in my conscience I don’t think is justified”.

In particular the last part raises a lot of comments. In this connection there is only reference to several historical reflections by B.H.D. Hermesdorf, Licht en schaduw in de advocatuur der lage landen [Light and shadow in advocacy of the Low Countries], Leiden: E.J. Brill 1951, p. 118-124 and to F.A.W. Bannier and N.A.M.E.C. Fanoy, Beroep: advocaat [Profession: lawyer], Deventer: Kluwer 2005, p. 225-237.

Why do some people think that being an ‘lawyer‘ is the best profession, or better still: the most beautiful vocation? Why did Katadreuffe in Bordewijk’s Karakter [Character] stake everything on becoming an lawyer? Do they not know the story, true or untrue, that played in the first half of the second millennium?

The lawyers from that time required a patron saint. They delegated Saint Yvo (1253-1303) to travel from Brittany to Rome, more in particular the Lateranum, in order to apply for this patron saint to His Holiness. The request was honoured on the understanding that Yvo could choose one of the statues erected on the square but only after he was blindfolded. Under loud encouragement of the prelates present he made his way until in the end he came to a halt. He placed his hand on a statue and declared that he had made his choice. His blindfold was removed and to the amusement of all spectators he appeared to have chosen a statue of the devil. Deeply sad he returned as you understand empty-handed to Brittany to die there soon after.

In the end Saint Yvo, who as a professional practitioner serves as an example for many, was canonized by Pope Clemens VI. His epitaph contributed to the fact that Saint Yvo would from then on be the patron saint of lawyers. What did this epitaph read? Sanctus Yvo erat Brito, Advocatus et non latro. Res miranda populo [Saint Yvo was a Breton; a lawyer but not a thief. Something the people were surprised about].

Karel Frielink
Attorney (Lawyer) / Partner

(4 March 2011)

Also published (in Dutch) in the ‘Nieuwsbrief‘ of the ‘Antilliaanse Juristenvereniging‘ (Nr. 2/2011, p. 3-6).


Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.