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.
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.