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Dongen (NB): reformed church

The old church of Dongen is one of a few ruined churches in this country. The tower probably dates from the 15th century and is the oldest part of the church. With its heavy diagonally positioned buttresses and undeep blind niches with round shapes it is a typical example of early Campine Gothic. The nave, transept and choir date from ca. 1500. Originally the nave had a basilican shape, with low side-aisles with small windows and a clerestorey illuminating the interior, but in 1640-1644 the walls of the side-aisles were heightened, larger windows were made and the clerestorey vanished under the roof, resulting in a pseudo-basilican nave. The church was still in catholic hands at that time, but in 1648 it was confiscated by the protestants, despite the fact that they had only just completed a church of their own elsewhere in the village in the year before.
The new protestant owners at first were able to take good care of the building even though they were only few in numbers; the catholic majority of the population was simply forced to pay for maintenance as well. After the catholics were given more rights in 1795 they made several attempts to get the church back. Despite governmental policy in the early-19th century that churches should be returned wherever catholics formed a majority the protestants simply refused to leave. Maintenance however no longer was paid for by the community, except for the tower which was property of the municipality, and the church fell into decay. In ca. 1919 the protestants finally realized that the church was much too big for them and started negotiations with the catholics, whose church had been demolished by fire in 1917. The catholics however preferred to build a new church (the St. Laurentius) rather than to pay the high price the protestants ask for the old one, plus the costs of a much needed restoration. Although the protestants saw no other option than to keep the church, their use from that time on was restricted to the transept and choir only as the nave was in an especially bad state. In 1928 neglect took its toll when the roof of the nave came down during a storm. Ever since it has been a ruin. In the 1970's there were plans to restore the church to its 17th-century form. In 1975 the church was sold for the symbolic price of 1 guilder to a foundation with the goal to restore the church, but until now only the choir has been restored.

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