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Zutphen (G): St. Walburgiskerk

More than anything else, the St. Walburgis symbolizes Zutphen's wealth in the Middle Ages. This Gothic church, a representative of Lower Rhine Gothicism, is the result of some major alterations to predecessors.
Ca. 1046 a Romanesque church was built by order of bishop Bernoldus of Utrecht. It was a collegiate church.  Underneath the choir was a crypt, similar in style to that of the St. Pieter in Utrecht.

Until 1105 the church was named St. Petrus, but after a fire in that year it was consecrated St. Walburga and Maria. In the first half of the 13th century this church was rebuilt in Romanogothic style, incorporating parts of the choir, lateral choirs and transept of the old church. Of the Romanogothic church the lower part of the tower remains. The tower was completed later in the same century in Gothic style.

The apse was replaced by a three-sided closure. The side-aisles were extended to run along the tower, the lower section of which became an integral part of the central aisle. In 1370-1390 the lateral choir were replaced by an ambulatory with rectangular radiating chapels and a polygonal chapel at the east side, dedicated to Mary (also known as Raadskapel), which was completed in 1393. In the mid-15th century the side-aisles were widened and heightened. The former basilica had now become a hall-church. Two more chapels were added. To the northern side-aisle a chapel was built which was completed in 1492. In 1499 work started on the construction of a chapel to the south of the choir. Ca. 1500 a northern portal in Flamboyant Gothic style was added. The last important part of the church that was finished was the famous librije (library), which was added in 1561-1563 and housed an important collection of religious books, including many that were written by hand. all of the different parts of the church have been given roofs of their own, resulting in a very distinctive silhouet.

When the protestants confiscated the church in 1591 they wrecked the interior and closed the library after burning and looting part of the collection first. The vaults of the crypt were demolished and the floor was levelled. More positive protestant contributions to the building were the addition of a big wooden lantern-tower in 1633-1637 to replace a burned spire, and of a steeple which was put on top of the choir in 1729-1730. Also the library was reopened, this time including books by protestant writers as well. But much of the time the building was neglected and deprived of much of its Gothic ornaments. In 1820 and 1840 the still original Gothic polychrome interior was hidden underneath a coat of  white plaster. After 1826 all traceries were replaced by new window-frames of wood and iron. When architect G.N. Itz inspected the church in 1888 to prepare for a much needed restoration most of the pinacles were gone as well. The northern portal had even been totally mutilated. It's ironic that A.E. baron Mackay, former member of the church-counsil and then minister of Interior, tried to prevent this restoration, probably out of fear that the church would be restored to its former catholic glory.

It's true that no restoration could be done at that time without the involvement of the two major experts and governmental advisors in this field, Victor de Stuers and P.J.H. Cuypers, both catholics and in favour of a historical approach in restorations. But after pressure from his former co-members of the church-counsil, the minister could no longer sabotage the restoration and gave the needed subsidies. As was to be expected, P.J.H. Cuypers was placed in charge of the restoration, although most of his work was limited to advising and overseeing the work of others. All buttresses were repaired, balustrades and pinacles were renewed while new traceries were added to the windows. Inside the church the polychromy was restored. The restoration of the north portal causes a controversy. Protestants had beheaded a sculpture of Mary in the past, and in that shape it bothered no one. But now that it was to be completed with a new head and put back to its old place all of a sudden the church-counsil protested. But because the subsidies were given for the restoration of an important historical building, and not of a protestant church as such, the counsil reluctantly gave in. But Cuypers' plans to add more statues to the church had to be abandoned.

In 1945 the church was badly damaged. The damage was repaired from 1948 until 1962. In 1948 the lantern of the tower was destroyed. Despite a competition for a modern replacement, in 1966-1970 a copy of the 17th-century lantern was placed. After that the church was once again restored, from 1970 until 1988.


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