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Visiting the Kloosterkerk, Assen, The Netherlands: understated and with religious-secular nuances
A complicated building
This edifice in Assen, in Drenthe province, The Netherlands, is a relatively understated church building, which has also been used for secular purposes. A portion of the building has also housed the provincial museum and the provincial archives. It also served as the town hall for Assen, but the municipality vacated it, after a century's presence, in 1951. It has also been the police headquarters.
So why couldn't it have been left separate for its primary, religious use in the first place? the visitor might ask. (Americans particularly might pose the question with the latent background of church-state separation in mind.)
Well, easier said than done. In the first place, this is The Netherlands and, with its state patronage of Protestantism — and coupled with its long tradition of tolerance — few people would traditionally perceive a tacit alliance between a church building and a municipality as some sort of 'threat'.
However, the history of the museum / archives / ex-town hall / ex-police headquarters / church building goes back much further. Its origin is seen in its name: the Kloosterkerk , that is, the Convent Church, derived from the presence of Cistercian (or Trappist) nuns at the original 13th century foundation.
The silence of Trappists aside, the authorities, coming to the building in the 16th century, had a lot to say when William Louis (Dutch: Willem Lodewijk ) van Nassau-Dillenburg was implementing the Reformation in Assen and district: Roman Catholic buildings came under the control of the state and measures were effected to bring a Reformed understanding of Scripture to bear upon how this local congregation was organized.
Thus, after the Reformation, the Kloosterkerk became Reformed (Dutch: Hervormd ), — but see below (1). The lower, brick part of the building exhibits a simple solidity.
The main building restorations of the Kloosterkerk occurred in 1662 and 1817. The relatively short tower has a conspicuous cupola-style top.
Its address looks rather good: Brink 2-3.
So come and see this fine building if you are visiting Assen. (But you're not likely to have a Dutch person come and moralize to you about separation of church and state.)
July 26, 2012
(1) Dutch Protestants must think the English language is very poor, because there is only one word 'Reformed', where Dutch has two: Hervormd and Gereformeerd . Lately, many of the various congregations calling themselves Hervormd and Gereformeerd have linked together, but it is hard for a non-Dutch person to grasp the precise distinction between Hervormd and Gereformeerd .
Also worth seeing
In Assen itself, there are various other church buildings of note, which include the Josefkerk , and a number of elegant townhouses.
How to get there: Airlines flying to Amsterdam-Schipol Airport from New York include Delta Airlines and KLM. The Dutch railroad company NS (Nederlandse Spoorwegen) maintains rail services between Amsterdam-Schipol and Assen . There is car rental availability at Amsterdam airport. Please check with the airline or your travel agent for up to date information. Some facilities may be withdrawn, without notice.
MJFenn is an independent travel writer based in Ontario, Canada.
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