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Helvoirt (NB): St. Nicolaas (J.H.H. van Groenendael, 1900-1903)

As was the case in many other places in Noord-Brabant, the small protestant community in Helvoirt refused to abandon their church (which is described here) when it was legally returned to its rightfull owners. Eventually the government in 1801 decided to give up on the idea of restitution and thus reward the protestant rebellious attitude. Even a governmental decision in 1809 to return the church anyway was ignored. This attitude of the protestants and lack of any serious support from the government forced the catholic majority to built themselves a new church instead. Ironically, considering the size of the current catholic church, this probably meant the old church's survival; it would have quickly become too small for the growing catholic population while the protestant community always remained small.

Until then the catholics had been using a barn-church, built in 1795. In 1840 this was replaced by a church in neo-Classical style, in part paid for by the government as compensation. There may have been several reasons for its replacement. It could have been too small, but it's also possible it was replaced because people no longer liked its style. The church Van Groenendael built is a rather late example of neo-Gothic, a style which had become catholic standard already shortly after 1853, when the catholics finally had fully regained religious freedom, but which started to lose ground slowly around the year 1900. The church is often considered to be the architect's most important work.

It's a big three-aisled cruciform basilican church in a neo-Gothic style inspired by late Lower-Rhine Gothic. This influence is especially noticeable at the finely detailed tower, with its diagonally positioned buttresses crowned with pinacles and its balustrades and blind niches with traceries. Restoration of the church was started in 2002.





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