Traveling in Europe: Den Bosch Part II–Cathedrals and Culture

Europe 2011: Den Bosch

Click on the top picture if you wish to see more of Den Bosch.

sculpture, Den Bosch, the Netherlands, gothic architecture, Brabantian style

The interior has many sculptures of the saints.

I spent two days hanging around Den Bosch, and really I could have spent longer. It’s a beautiful pastoral town with many interesting shops, a town market square and the best gothic cathedral (in Brabantian style) I saw in Holland. St. John’s Cathedral (Sint Jan’s Kathedraal) began its life in 1220, and unlike the churches of northern Holland, it never fell under the hand of the Protestant Reformation. Thus it is covered in statuary on the exterior, as well as a plethora of saints on the inside.

I was told I was lucky because the church had been under scaffolding for the last ten years as they did major repairs. There was an educational display inside that depicted some of the restoration techniques used to preserve and shore up the water porous stone. These endeavors are extremely expensive, can take years of work and will be needed again in decades to come. I’m sure it’s not the biggest cathedral in Europe by St. John’s was picturesque.

Den Bosch, angel, architecture, gothic cathedral, St. John's Cathedral, Holland

Angel with a cell phone

The exterior is festooned in angels, gargoyles and workers. Each flying buttress has  craftsmen sitting on the struts all the way up. Every pinnacle has a saint or an angel and one angel, replacing one of a few that fell to disrepair, is, when you look closely, standing in pants with a pouch/purse on her hip. She is holding something to her ear and I was told that they asked permission of the bishop to put up a modern angel. She holds a cell phone, but there is only one number because it’s a direct line to heaven.

The interior has some very good triptychs, and some are unusual in that they are part panel paintings and part carved panels. The stained glass sheds rainbows of light on the interior walls and many of those are still painted in frescos. Others have been renovated to bear the painting of centuries past and the use of color on the stone walls is something I had never considered in a cathedral before. The effect is quite stunning.

Hieronymus Bosch, Den Bosch, art, travel, Holland, gothic architecture, history, travel

A Boschian delight on the canal

Besides the cathedral, which is well worth a few visits, I went to the Hieronymus Bosch museum. it’s in a church that I think was designed in the 1800s but was never completed due to lack of funding. It was taken over to house information and displays on Den Bosch’s most famous son. His “Garden of Earthly Delights” is probably one of the more bizarre paintings of the Middle Ages. Bosch was fervently religious but his creatures and depictions of events and sins were right out of a drugged up fever dream. What an imagination. Interestingly, there is not one Bosch painting in Holland. They all reside in Spain. At the time Holland (or that part that has Bosch’s paintings) was under Spanish occupation and the Spanish loved his works well enough to transport them back to the homeland. Therefore there are replicas of his paintings but with informative displays as well as the sculptures.

Den Bosch, Hieronymus Bosch, Garden of Earthly Delights, art, Holland, Dutch

Inside the Hieronymus Bosch museum

I also realize now that I lost some pictures because there was an art show on the main floor by a contemporary artist inspired by Bosch. In the basement was a setup of what the artist’s life might have been like, along with displays and mannequins. There were interesting shops and lovely cobblestoned streets. The market on the weekend was jam packed with goods to buy from food to clothing. It was hard to walk through because there were so many people and it was a lovely day. I can see why people would get away to Den Bosch and if I’m in Holland again, I’m definitely coming back.

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