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Eindhoven (NB): St. Catharinakerk (P.J.H. Cuypers, 1859-1867)

This church is probably the highlight in the first period of P.J.H. Cuypers' long and fruitful career. It's a three-aisled cruciform basilican church with a three-aisled transept and a choir with an ambulatory and three hexagonal radiating chapels. At the front the church has three connected porches and two differently detailed towers. Its design was based on 13th-century French Gothic churches, especially those of Chartres and Reims. The church replaced a derelict medieval church.
For this church Cuypers used many of the ideas about symbolism in Gothicism, published by J.A. Alberdingk Thijm, Cuypers' friend and future brother-in-law and one of the leading members in the movement for equal rights for catholics. In one important aspect Cuypers does not follow these ideas; the church is not oriented, which means that the choir is not built at the eastern part of the church. The difference between the two towers is an idea that Cuypers did follow. Both towers are 70 metres tall. Alberdingk Thijm was convinced that a long lost secret symbolism was the reason behind the difference between the two towers, as seen on many French Gothic churches. For this church Cuypers designed two different towers. The southern tower is the more refined of the two and represents the Ivory Tower, symbol of the purity of Mary. The northern tower is decorated with turrets and battlements; this 'defensive' look represents the Tower of David, symbol of strength. It is nowadays widely believed that the difference between the towers of medieval churches was caused by financial reasons more than anything else, so Alberdingk Thijm was probably wrong. More symbolism is found in the many rose-windows, referring to St. Catharina, whose attribute is a wheel.
The porches are decorated with sculptures, executed in natural stone. Unfortunately, some of this ornamenture must now be protected from vandalism by screening. Perhaps a problem caused by the attitude of local politicians? After all, Eindhoven has a long history of contempt for anything of artistic or historic value. Not a very good example for youngsters, to say the least.
In 1942 the church was heavily damaged by bombs, and was restored after the war by architect C.H. de Bever.








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