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Middelburg (Z): Abdijkerk

In 1123 a monastery was founded in Middelburg. Four years later it became an abbey. The original chapel was replaced by a church after a few decades. This Romanesque church also served the parish after 1266. Several changes and enlargements in the 14th and 15th centuries resulted in a combination of two seperate churches. These, Koorkerk ('choir church') and Nieuwe Kerk ('new church'), were eventually followed by a third, the Wandelkerk ('walking church'), a part seperated from the Koorkerk.
The Koorkerk is the oldest and is the original church of the abbey. It was built in ca. 1300 and has a one-aisled nave and a choir with a five-sided closure. The vaults date from the second half of the 16th century. The Nieuwe Kerk was built as a parish church and was called St. Nicolaas then. It's a two-aisled hall-church with a double-gable front. In its current form this front is largely a reconstruction. In 1851-1853 it was changed in early neo-Gothic style by architect G.H. Grauss. When the entire abbey complex was restored, starting in 1885, the front was given the more authentic current Gothic look. The aisles are covered by wooden barrel-vaults and its interior is spoiled by emptiness and plastic chairs. Originally it was directly connected to the Koorkerk, but now the Wandelkerk seperates them. The Wandelkerk essentially is the part below the tower which used to belong to the Koorkerk. Its name reminds of a use of parts of many churches after the Reformation; people made short walks in them, as if it were a park, while protestant services were held in a different part of the church, which was often closed by a wall. In this case it's a curtain.
The tower dominates Middelburg and in fact much of the island of Walcheren. It's height of 85 metres tall owes it its nickname of Lange Jan ('long John'). It probably dates from the second half of the 14th century. The octagonal ground-plan is unusual, and it's probably no coincidence that the tower of the Great Church in Den Haag, which had close ties to the abbey, has a similar shape. The location next to the choir is also a bit unusual.
In 1940 the entire church was badly damaged but reconstructed to its pre-war state afterwards. Only the tower was slightly changed. On top is a copy of the spire from the 18th century.



Nieuwe Kerk

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