Sunday, August 22, 2010

The Oudenbosch Basilica of Agatha & Barbara

In almost every post these days I mention that we have driven to a new city here in The Netherlands and have visited a church, among other things. What I haven't been explicit about is that almost all the churches we've seen have been Dutch Reformed or Lutheran churches. That is, Protestant. Unlike parts of Belgium and France to the south, Holland is not Roman Catholic.

So when we had the chance recently to visit the Basilica in Oudenbosch, 27 miles SW of us, we had quite the surprise. Modeled after St. Peter's Basilica in Rome (construction began in 1865 and was completed in 1982, over 100 years later), it represented everything "Roman Catholic."

The thing is, Oudenbosch is a village of only 13,000 people. Can you imagine this imposing structure in a city of that size? It still blows my mind.

When you enter the front door of the church, your eyes are immediately drawn all the way to the altar at the opposite end:

In some of these images, the altar is seen from the dome above, after climbing up to the "whispering gallery."

Speaking of which, when not drawn to the altar, the dome beckons:

Interestingly, everything we saw from the whispering gallery surrounding the dome was painted. It looked like mosaic tile but it wasn't. We guessed it made sense for having the look without all the expense.
[In the above collage, the bottom center image is not from the dome but from the altar.]

For those of you who grew up with Roman Catholic culture, iconography and architecture, this is surely "old hat." For me it is astonishing. All of it:

Lucky for me, I was able to find a YouTube video of this church, with much better images: The Oudenbosch Basilica of the Saints Agatha and Barbara:

Now I will make a simple/simplistic observation which I hinted at in my last post: We have visited only a handful of Catholic churches here in The Netherlands but Astrid agrees with me that all of them have seemed so much darker and "colder" than the Protestant churches we've visited. Maybe one of you can enlighten us? Is it marble vs. wood? Statuary vs. open spaces? Fewer vs. more windows? What is it?

That same day-trip to Oudenbosch, we saw another delightful, artistic the form of this whimsical garden "statue:"

While we were photographing this car, the front door of the house opened and a gentleman came out to welcome us. Apparently this has become quite the tourist attraction (unbeknownst to us) and he asks people to send him their images once they get home. Yes, we were good and sent him ours. I bet he has quite a collection.

Also on this particular trip I was able to photograph 4 different water towers that we purposely went to find both coming and going to Oudenbosch. Astrid knows I'm "collecting" them to put together one day into a gigantic collage. But to whet your appetite, here's a peek:

Believe it or not, these are very plain compared to others I have "captured." They're almost as soulful as the windmills...though not quite.

And that brings me to one last thing (before I start tackling the Sail 2010 images!): it's my turn again today at Vision & Verb where I talk about Pleasing All the People All the Time, using the following image (from my last post):

Maybe you'll figure out what I'm gonna say before you get there?!


  1. Well I had a feeling I knew what you would say . . . but I enjoyed reading every word. Beautiful post at V&V.

    This is remarkable, this little church in the country. I can see St. Peter's all over the place. I think you might be right about the marble making Catholic churches seem cold. They had all the money for expensive materials, I suppose.

  2. We saw the Basilica already from far, no doubt about it where to go, amazing such a small town with such a grand building.
    Your collages say it all, we were short of eyes to see all the details in the church.
    That car was great, I hope our car does not end up as a flowerpot....
    Sunday was the cherry on the pie, wonderful weather and a windmill, do I need to say more, I love the weekends when we are all over the place.
    Thanks for being my Partner in Crime.

  3. Ruth: You know me, of course, so not many surprises from me, I'm sure. BTW, has this become your avatar? :) And if so, it's perfect for you. How fun is that!

    Astrid: When you have a big church like this in a small town, you clearly cannot miss it! It still surprises me to no seems so out of place there. But the images vouch for it. It IS there and is one of the treasures of this country I am so glad to have seen with my own eyes! I can't imagine being a PIC with anyone else! :)

  4. Beautiful pics and report as always. And the town, one of the many Bosch cities! Very interesting!

    I've been on a Victoria Vacation around town for the last 5 days and trying to catch up quickly to a few blog reads..

    We visited Butchart finally!

  5. that church is grandiose. never seen one that magnificent - well st. peter's basilica, but none outside of that one.

    i haven't seen enough non catholic churches to make a comparison :)

  6. Well, what an amazing conclusion Ginnie, that Holland is NOT RK?? Apart from the people with no religion at all, which is 42% at the moment, the Roman Catholic faith has the biggest part of all religions in Holland, where religion is divided as follows:

    29% rooms-katholiek,
    9% hervormd,
    6% PKN,
    4% gereformeerd,
    5% islamitisch,
    42% geen gezindte
    (found on Wikipedia)

    You have made a beautiful journalistic trip through that basiliek! I love the pictures, they are so full of colours. Really pleasing for the eyes. And that flowerpot is really something else! Ghehe!!

    I am really happy that you put up so many pictures on your blog of so many beautiful Dutch picturesque subjects. I don't want to forget how beautiful that tiny country can be in nature and culture.

    Thanks for being a photographer!!

  7. ET: Yes, another Bosch city. So many of them...all of which I hope we'll see. :) So glad you've had a vacation. I know you needed it!

    PC: To see a church like this here in Holland seemed so out of place...but in that small town especially so! If you're used to RC churches, maybe the protestant churches would surprise you?

    F&F: Man oh man, Marion. I’m so surprised. Of the 42% now geen gezindte, I wonder how many of them came from protestant vs. RC homes? Maybe the % would greatly change? It’s interesting how a perception comes about from visiting around and just observing.

    Astrid also tells me she’s seeing her country anew through my eyes. But I think that happens! Tourists and visitors always see things with different eyes. We get all the “baggage” and they don’t! :)

    Thank you kindly for commenting here at this blog. It means the world to me!

  8. Hi Ginnie,
    back to normal after a blast of an Event: OsloBG. All Guests are now at Home, and we locals are back to work.

    Holland is interesting when come to Religion: In this tiny country they have every apects of Christianity, to agnostics to muslims etc

    The Basilica in question is very beautiful, and is a proof of peoples dedication to God. Like you can find so many examples of in villages around Europe.

    The old Fiat 500 is really charming, but even the nostaltic new one is far too small for me;)

    Water Towers, wow, that's interesting. In France: Chateaux d'Eaux. In Norway we have only a few - no need due to hills and mountains.

    hugs to you and Astrid

    btw. Missed you during OsloBG

  9. Breathtaking photos! Makes me wish that I was there.

  10. Ginnie,
    I'm thinking that you might never run out of chuches to visit in Holland, but if ever you do, you can always move on to neighbouring countries.
    A few days ago, we visited one of the clifftop monasteries of the Meteroa, in Greece. The richly painted interior of the chapel was beautiful, like this one, but we were not permitted to take photographs. It reminded me of a comment made by an Algerian I met a few years ago, who said he was profoundly shocked the first time he went inside an RC church, to see such imagery. After his acclimitization to Western culture, he learned to appreciate it, but initially it flew against everything he had been taught to expect of a place of worship.

    The car was wonderful! The man must have been too, to have such a whimsical imagination. Now I'll hop over to V&V~

  11. Dear Ginnie,
    You sure know how to spin a photographic tale.

    This Roman Catholic church dripping with symbols of wealth. For me, a bit over the top and ostentatious except for that magnificently regal dome. I feel that the Dutch Protestant churches you've shown so far seem to be visually more calming and they appear to have taller windows that let in more light. This feel assaulted by too many images in this Catholic church, but then I'm quite biased. I don't hold the RC's in high regard.

    When I was in elementary school in Amsterdam eons ago, I learned that if you divide The Netherlands along the diagonal, that the southern half was mostly Catholic and the northern half Protestant.

    My verification word is "sprec"; I guess I have ge-sprec-ed now.

  12. Tor: I bet you don't know what to do with yourself now that everyone is gone! We will come see you when it's a bit quieter. HA! Thanks, as always, for stopping by here. You're a sweetheart!

    Charles: Thank you kindly for stopping by and commenting here. That means a lot to me. I like that we have common friends in Renny and Tor. :)

    Deborah: I know for a fact there will be way more churches here than I'll ever have a chance to see! Monasteries in particular thrill me to no end...more so than the huge cathedrals, to be honest. Monasteries and mission churches, like in California. Every religion has its places of worship that can tell us so much about what they believe. The stories they can tell! And yes, that guy with the car garden must be quite a character! I can just imagine how much fun he has with that.

    DB: You and I come from similar thought, I see. It probably has to do with how we were raised. If we had grown up in this church, like in France, something else would seem way odd. And yes, I know your English, as Astrid would say. :)

  13. Your pictures are always impressive and educational! And I always enjoy touring cathedrals whether Catholic or Protestant. The car garden is unique. :)

    I've been busy so I have not posted anything new on my blog since you been there last; but I thought it was past due time that I came to visit yours. How does life get so busy?