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Hoorn (NH): St. Cyriacus en Franciscus (A.C. Bleijs, 1879-1882)

After Hoorn had joined the Reformation in 1573 the Catholics of that town, the majority of the population, had lost their three churches to the protestants. In the course of the 17th century, several catholic hidden churches were founded in the town. In 1827 one of these hidden churches was replaced when the Catholics were permitted to use the former chapel of the St. Catharina convent as a church. It was renamed St. Cyriacus, like the medieval parish church, although it remained municipal property. A second church, a former hidden church which confusingly was also called St. Cyriacus, merged with the former in 1828. The third Catholic church was served by Franciscans and was called St. Franciscus or De Drie Tulpen ('The three tulips') and had been formed in 1755 out of three houses.   

In 1856 the two churches became parish churches, but in 1868 the two parishes merged. Both churches remained in use until 1877, but the St. Franciscus had been given a secondary status. In July of that year, the St. Cyriacus was damaged by fire. As the remaining St. Franciscus was much neglected it was time to build a new one. Incidentally, the destroyed chapel was soon rebuilt and served as a protestant church until 1968 and is now a theatre. The Catholics meanwhile had demolished the St. Franciscus to make space for the new church and built a temporary church nearby. Because the available space was limited, the location being on a major street between houses, the adjacent houses were bought, one of which was demolished while the one on the south side was transformed into a presbytery.

Local architect A.C. Bleijs, who had previously designed a cemetery chapel for the parish, was commissioned to design the new church. Given the restricted space, a conventional layout with a frontal tower was probably not desirable, and Bleijs had already shown to prefer other styles than neo-Gothic anyway. He designed a high three-aisled cruciform basilica in neo-Renaissance style with a monumental crossing-tower with a dome on top, counterbalanced by a front with two polygonal towers. The side-aisles are higher than usual, to accomodate a second storey with galeries. To illuminate the inside, the church has some large windows in the transept, a few smaller ones in the crossing-tower and some relatively big ones in a highly positioned clerestory while there are skylights in the roofs of the side-aisles as well. The windows in the lower part of the side-aisles are small, as they all face the adjacent houses anyway. The restricted space is also the reason why the facade follows the building line and thus closes the nave at an angle.

Work began after the laying of the wooden and stone foundations had been tendered in September 1878 while the construction of the church itself was tendered in late December. Both tenders were won by the same constructor, who went bankrupt as a result of unexpected higher material costs.

After four years since the first tender the church was completed and was consecrated on October the 30th 1882. It was dedicated to the patron saints of its two predecessors. But within the next fifty years the church suffered from storms from the nearby sea. As the construction drawings only showed the foundations as a number of unconnected piles driven in the moist soil, the conclusion was made that these were too weak to support the church. Especially the crossing-tower weighed heavily on its four pillars. In August 1933 an engineer and an architect concluded that there was no other option to save the church but to remove the crossing-tower and close the resulting hole in the roof, and the planned demolition was announced in newspapers the same month. Fortunately, further research later that year revealed that the foundations were much more stable than the drawings suggested and that strengthening them by adding four concrete arches should be sufficient to save the entire church. Which, despite the higher costs, is what happened.  

In both style and general shape, this church precedes the St. Nicolaas in Amsterdam, which was built by Bleijs a few years later and is considered his most important work.





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