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Oudenbosch (NB): Basiliek van de H.H. Agatha en Barbara (P.J.H. Cuypers, 1867-1880)

When Willem Hellemons was appointed Father of the Oudenbosch parish in 1842, he was displeased with the local church, a building from the 16th century. Although the church was in a fairly good state, Hellemons was especially annoyed for the Gothic style it was built in. The ambitious Hellemons had studied in Rome, was ordained a priest in the Basilica of St. John Lateran and spent many hours in St. Peter's Basilica. Willemons had great plans for Oudenbosch, the most important of which was a new church, a copy of the St. Peter as a symbol of allegiance to pope Pius IX whose power was threathened. A few years later Willemons collected around 3000 Dutch volunteers  for the Papal Zouaves to defend the pope's wordly power.
The new church was constructed over a long period and was built 200 meters west of the old church. The unlikely choice for the architect was P.J.H. Cuypers, who had never done anything like this before in his career and never would again. Cuypers had mostly designed Neo-Gothic churches until then, but had become influenced by Romanesque as well. He first made some sketches for a church in Neo-Romanesque style, using only the ground plan of the Renaissance/Baroque St. Peter. This design was rejected and in 1861 Cuypers was sent to Rome to study the Baroque architecture of that city. During his stay there he openly vented his contempt for the Baroque architecture, reason why he was almost forced to leave Italy. The resulting church is in many ways much more related to the Neo-Classical churches Cuypers despised so much, than to his Neo-Gothic work. Although it's not obvious, the church was mostly constructed out of brick which was covered with lots of plaster, although natural stone has been used to a limited extend as well. The inside is dominated by wood painted to resemble marl and gold. 
The proportions of the basilica are not the same as those of its example in Rome, but it's s an impressive building nonetheless. Already during its construction, critics pitied future generations for the burden of maintenance of a church which at that time was expected to be much too big for several more decades. 
In 1880 the church was completed and the old church was demolished. However, in 1892 a new facade was added, inspired by that of the Basilica of St. John Lateran in Rome, designed by G.J. van Swaay. In that period the church was surrounded by a wall, another reference to St. Peter's square in Rome, of which only one arch remains.
The church, the name of which in English is Sts. Agatha and Barbara, received the honorary title of Basilica Minor in 1912.









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