Visiting Bocholtz, the Netherlands: Border Definitions, and Echoes of a Strongly Religious Past
Deeply rooted in the past and in territory of transition
Bocholtz is located in the Dutch province of Limburg (1), The Netherlands. This village lies close to the border with Germany. Interestingly, the other side of the border are the localities of Vetschau and Orsbach, both of which are within the city limits of Aachen.
Thus, Bocholtz is virtually a suburb of Aachen, though it is in The Netherlands. In this respect, Bocholtz resembles the Dutch town of Vaals, which is also physically contiguous to Aachen, but, significantly there are also some differences. While the Downtown area of Vaals contains the main road between Aachen and Maastricht, the centre of Bocholtz is altogether more quiet. Although a freeway passes close to Bocholtz, the vicinity of its main, parish church in the actual village itself exudes a curious stillness and monumentality.
This church, with its huge tower, was the responsibility of Architect P.J.H. Cuypers (1827-1921)(2), who was also noted for many outstanding works. This building, known as the Jacobus de Meerderekerk , was built between 1869 and 1873, and further expanded in 1953; H. Koene, and other architects, also assisted. Its style is neo-Gothic, and among its striking features is its huge tower. A chapel dating from 1373 formerly stood on the site of the current building.
From a geographical perspective, Bocholtz gives its name to the Bocholtz Plateau.
"Plateau?" the alert reader might ask. "I thought The Netherlands is flat!"
Well, much of The Netherlands is indeed flat, but Bocholtz is in Limburg, a Dutch province characterized by rolling hill country, especially in its southern part. What is also interesting is that the Bocholtz Plateau extends into Germany, encompassing the territory on which Orsbach and the Schneeberg rest (see photo, right, of the Schneeberg).
The main photo, above, was taken on a road named Orsbacherweg . As can be seen, the skyline at Bocholtz is dominated by the tower of the parish church. Thus, interestingly, this road leads to, and is named for, a German locality the other side of the border.
So it is that Bocholtz, as a locality and as a geographical expression, somewhat defines and is defined by the Dutch-German border and territories lying each side of it.
The Jacobus de Meerderekerk is located at Pastoor Neujeanstraat 6, Bocholtz, in the Simpleveld municipality of Limburg province, The Netherlands.
December 17, 2012
(1) There is also a Belgian province by the name of Limburg.
(2) Architect Cuypers also designed Amsterdam's Central Railroad Station and the Rijksmuseum building, and a huge number of church buildings, including the Catharinakerk in Eindhoven; he was strongly influenced by Medieval, religious themes and even his secular design work has a religious 'feel' to it. He was a Dutch Limburger, thus, from a province which has for many centuries been identified with a strongly conservative, Roman Catholic persuasion. (Architect Cuypers was member of the Dominican order and opted to be buried in a monastic habit.)
Also worth seeing
In Bocholz itself, De Bongard castle dates from the 16th century.
Holset (distance: 8.7 kilometres) has an ancient church building, the origins of which are reputed to go back to the year 360.
How to get there: The nearest large international airport to Bocholtz is at Duesseldorf. Lufthansa flies from New York Newark to Duesseldorf, where car rental is available. A46/A61/A44/A4 lead to the Aachen-Vetschau / Bocholtz border crossing. Please check with the airline or your travel agent for up to date information. You are advised to refer 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.