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Tilburg (NB): St. Dionysius or Goirkese kerk (H. Essens, 1835-1839, C.H. de Bever, 1938)

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The St. Dionysius in the Goirke neighbourhood, not to be confused with the church with the same name in the centre of Tilburg, is a very early example of neo-Gothic architecture in the Netherlands. The church replaced a barn church, a small building from the early 18th century that, despite changes and renovations, by 1829 badly needed to be replaced. Several requests to king Willem I for funding had no result. This changed when crownprince Willem, the later king Willem II, who often resided in Tilburg and was a friend of the priest of the Goirke parish, the later archbishop Joannes Zwijsen, offered to negotiate. Although the prince was a protestant, he felt a strong sympathy for the catholic church. In November 1834 permission was given, as well as a big government grant to build a new church.
The new church was designed by architect Hendrik Essens from Oisterwijk. Construction began in August 1835 and lasted until 1839. Unusual for that time is that the church was designed in neo-Gothic style. Probably the prince played a role in the choice for this style as well. He grew up in England, where he became acquainted with Gothic and Gothic Revival architecture. He later commissioned two palaces in neo-Gothic style, one in Den Haag and one in Tilburg. Although Gothic shapes had been introduced into Dutch architecture a couple of years earlier, with the English Episcopal church in Amsterdam (built 1827-1829) being the first example, the St. Dionysius was the first complete church in the Netherlands where the shape and proportions more or less resembled those of the medieval examples. Perhaps the architect and builders had profited from the experience made with the rebuilding of the nave of the St. Petrus in Boxtel in 1823-1827. Like that church, the St. Dionysius is a three-aisled basilica, not a common type for new churches in this mostly neo-Classical period when the average church was one-aisled or a hall-church. The three aisles were covered with imitated vaults of wood and plaster.
Originally the side-aisles were covered by series of hip roofs, emulating the chapels of the churches in Brabantine Gothic and its Campine variant. Oddly, the original facade was in neo-Classical style and had a short square tower at the front with a dome lantern on top. In 1902-1903 the facade was rebuilt in neo-Gothic style while a steeple in the same style replaced the lantern. In the same period the hip roofs of the side-aisles were replaced by a single slate-roof on either side.
In 1937 plans were made to replace the church in two stages with a new, bigger one. Architect C.H. de Bever probably designed a complete church, but only the first stage was carried out. In 1938 the neo-Gothic choir was demolished and replaced by a new eastern part, consisting of a transept, a choir with lateral chapels, a square crossing-tower and a sacristy. This new part of the church was built in Traditionalist style, resembling the work of A.J. Kropholler and various architects of the Delftse School movement. The Second World War prevented stage two, the replacement of the nave. The last obvious visual change to the church is the removal of the tower at the front in 1966.










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