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Visiting Sint-Catharinakapel, Oud-Lemiers, Limburg: among the oldest of church buildings in The Netherlands

Updated on May 29, 2017
Flag of The Netherlands
Flag of The Netherlands | Source
Sint Catharinakapel, Lemiers, Limburg, The Netherlands
Sint Catharinakapel, Lemiers, Limburg, The Netherlands | Source
Dutch architect P.J.H. Cuypers (1827-1921), by H J Haverman in 1897
Dutch architect P.J.H. Cuypers (1827-1921), by H J Haverman in 1897 | Source

Solidity in stone

This 12th century chapel — Sint Catharinakapel — in Oud-Lemiers is among the oldest of church buildings in The Netherlands, situated in the municipality of Vaals.

This does require further definition.

Yes, it is in The Netherlands, but over a stream almost adjacent to it — the Senserbach — lies Germany, in a locality also known as Lemiers.

Some sources suggest that Sint-Catharinakapel in Oud-Lemiers is actually the oldest church building in The Netherlands; if so, it has strong competition from a building in the nearby Dutch village of Holset, where an extant church building occupies a site which reputedly had already had a religious structure some hundreds of years before Sint-Catharinakapel was built in the 12th century.

The structure, executed in stone, is noted for its elongated shape, a conspicuous, leaning tower and Syrian arched windows and doorway. The interior of the building exhibits religious paintings by Hans Truijen (1928-2005), dating from 1978. A tombstone is dated 1719.

Sint-Catharinakapel was restored in the 19th century by the distinguished Dutch architect P.J.H. Cuypers (1827-1921)(1), noted for a strong sense of religious sensibility. He was a Chief Government Architect of The Netherlands (Dutch: Rijksbouwmeester).

I actually arrived at Sint-Catharinakapel via Germany, just over the small stream. I travelled by Aachen city bus, and Sint-Catharinakapel is clearly visible to travellers from the bus. It is a somewhat sobering experience to consider that parishioners from both sides of the stream — in what is now Dutch and German Lemiers — would have been attending the Sint-Catharinakapel many hundreds of years before ranting nationalist politicians in the 20th century were for a while pleased to make national borders a big issue in their warped view of the world.

May 24, 2017


(1) Other works by Architect Cuypers include the Amsterdam Central Railroad Station (Dutch: Centraal Station) and the Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam; he was also known for his ecclesiastical architecture, and was steeped in an ordered vision of form which related to his Roman Catholic beliefs. Himself a Limburger, Architect Cuypers was a Dominican (and was even buried in a monastic cape). The Dutch province of Limburg has been noted for a strong sense of religious traditionalism among its mainly Roman Catholic inhabitants.

Sint-Catarinakapel, Lemiers
Sint-Catarinakapel, Lemiers | Source
Map location of Vaals, Limburg, The Netherlands |
Map location of Vaals, Limburg, The Netherlands | | Source

Of interest

Zuid-Nederland / Pays-Bas Sud (Michelin Regional Maps)
Zuid-Nederland / Pays-Bas Sud (Michelin Regional Maps)

The Michelin series of maps of The Netherlands is highly to be recommended for detail and clarity.


Also worth seeing

In Lemiers itself, a caslte lies on the border with Germany, with the international boundary passing along part of the castle's moat; a 19th church building is situated on the Vaals-Maastricht main road which passes through the vilage.

Holset (distance: 1.2 kilometres) is an ancient stone church building, at a place which is supposed to have Christian associations from over 1600 years ago.

Mamelis (distance: 2.3 kilometres) has a prominently built abbey situated on the wooded Sint Benediktusberg.

Vaalserberg, Vaals (distance: 5.3 kilometres); this wooded hill attains a height of 322.5 metres and is where the borders of The Netherlands, Germany and Belgium come together.

Aachen , Germany (distance: 7.3 kilometres); many visitors come to its Cathedral, associated with Charlemagne, and striking City Hall.


How to get there: The nearest large city to Lemiers is Aachen, Germany. Lufthansa flies from New York Newark to Duesseldorf, where car rental is available. A46/A61/A44 lead to Aachen. The German railroad company Deutsche Bahn (DB) links Duesseldorf to Aachen (distance: 93 kilometres). Please check with the airline or your travel agent for up to date information. It is advisable 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.


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