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Visiting Aardenburg, The Netherlands and its church of St. Bavo: for centuries, building up
A fine example of Scheldt Gothic
Evidently, it was not first of all an American idea to build up and up. In the Low Countries, especially in Flanders and The Netherlands, architects have been doing it for many centuries. Interestingly, here in Aardenburg (formerly known as Rodenburgh) one is in both Flanders and The Netherlands, since it is found in that part of the Dutch Zeeland province which lies to the south of the Scheldt River (Dutch: Schelde ), geographically contiguous to Belgium. Aardenburg now belongs to the municipality of Sluis.
In Dutch, St Bavo's church is known as 'Sint-Baafskerk'. Up, indeed, is where its builders built. Expanded in 1220, it is thought that a previous structure, which burned down in 1202, came into being in the 10th century following the migration of monks from Ghent, and that some of its building materials were derived from ruins of a local fortifications dating from Roman times.
The church building is located at Sint-Bavostraat, 5. The building is noted as good example of Scheldt Gothic style. The building underwent repeated damage over the centuries, not least during World War Two.
St. Bavo's church is noted for its excellent acoustics. Since the 1950s, Bach's St. Matthew Passion has from time to time been performed in the building.
One of my memories of my visit to this church building, which has since the 17th century been identified with a variety of the Reformed churches in The Netherlands, is of the reaction of the friendly janitor who was giving information about the church, to my attempts to place Dutch Reformed churches in some kind of organizational perspective. This gentleman showed some amusement at these attempts of mine, given the sheer complexity of the subject, upon which he seemed also disinclined to pontificate. The town of Aardenburg (now part of the municipality of Sluis) is regarded as the oldest in Zeeland and there is a sense in which it has probably seen the whole gamut of ecclesiastical happenings over the centuries. (Not that I do not acknowledge the historical and spiritual importance of church history, but it is nevertheless the case that non-Dutch observers of the church scene in The Netherlands have often been baffled by its bewilderingly nuanced aspects.)
Also worth seeing
In Aardenburg itself, a gate known as the Kaaipoort is a noted, local feature.
Sluis (distance: 9 kilometres); this canal town is noted for its 14th century belfry.
How to get there: Brussels National Airport (Brussel -Nationaal -Luchthaven) , Belgium, where car hire is available, is the nearest large international airport to Aardenburg (distance: 117 km). Brussels Airlines flies from New York (JFK) to Brussels National. By road from Brussels, take E19/A1 and E34 to exit near Aardenburg, by the Belgian-Dutch border. Some facilities may be withdrawn, without notice. Please check with the airline or your travel agent for up to date information. You are advised to appropriate consular sources for any special border crossing arrangements which may apply to citizens of certain nationalities.
MJFenn is an independent travel writer based in Ontario, Canada.
Other of my hubpages may also be of interest
- Visiting Sluis, The Netherlands: typical Dutch canal town in an untypical location
- Visiting Vlissingen, The Netherlands: seafaring memories and fine church architecture
- Visiting the Toronto Cubes, Ontario and the Rotterdam Cubes, The Netherlands: intriguing, innovative
- Visiting Rotterdam, The Netherlands: remembering its famous son, Erasmus of Rotterdam
- Visiting the Peace Palace, The Hague, The Netherlands: built on the eve of a huge conflagration