Visiting the Remonstrantse Kerk, Rotterdam, the Netherlands: Neo-Romanesque Monumentality Dating From 1897
Blunt and subtle at the same time
At a risk of gross exaggeration, centuries back, The Netherlands did not have politicians so much as religious ministers. The influence of the Dominees (as they were called) of the various Reformed churches was at one time immense. From the perspective of other countries, at least, politics — such as it was — was to some extent oriented around theological discourse, some of it deeply obscure to those were not among the initiate.
In the 17th century a group arose called the Remonstrants (Dutch: De Remonstranten), who basically took issue with some of the tenets of the Reformed church. Or, rather, the Reformed ministers took issue with various of the denials of a religious leader called Jacob Arminius, and then the Remonstrants disagreed (or remonstrated) with the Reformed ministers. The matters in question were the subject of a prolonged series of theological discussions at Dordrecht, or Dort, in 1618/19; these meetings were known collectively as the Synod of Dort. The group of Reformed ministers who gained the upper hand at Dort were often referred to as Calvinists. Even though the French theologian Calvin, for whom they were named, had died in 1564. So all these names and terms: Calvin and Calvinists, Arminius and Arminians and Remonstrants can be used at various levels of theological and historical precision. Or else as rallying terminology or even — depending on whose clogs one was wearing — derogatorily. (1)
(As in: "Democrat", or "Democrat!". "Republican' or "Republican!". "Trump", or "Trump!". "Hillary", or "Hillary!", and so forth.)
Anyway: all this to explain something of this church building's name — De Remonstrantse — (sometimes also called the Arminius) — Kerk.
The building itself dates from 1897 (2). The work of architects Henri Evers (1855-1929) and Jacobus Stok (1862-1942), it is executed red brick in Neo-Romanesque style. Very evident features of this style with Romanesque roots include a profusion of Syrian arches above doorways, windows and other inset wall features, and a domed roof to the prominent tower.
The building does also incorporate noteworthy examples of flying buttresses - a feature often identified with Gothic-styled structures.
The structure was refurbished in 1978.
Other buildings for which Architect Evers was responsible are Rotterdam's City Hall.
Trivia: Architect Evers was son-in-law to the minister of the congregation for which he designed the building.
The Remonstrantse Kerk is situated at Westersingel 76, Rotterdam, in the South Holland (Dutch: Zuid-Holland) province of The Netherlands.
July 26, 2018
(1) Just to add to these remarks, when one speaks of the tenets of the Dutch Reformed churches or of the Remonstrant churches, one might by such language seem to be implying that they had their origin in these churches or else that it was the authority of these churches — through their ministers — that caused them to become perceived somehow as normative. In fact, it would be more accurate to say they were first and foremost deeply tied up with matters of the interpretation of Scripture; and that theological discussions beyond the borders of The Netherlands sometimes played a part in how this often subtle terminology was used.
Even here there would have been a difference of emphasis between Reformed Calvinists and Remonstrants in the precise way they would read and interpret Scripture. In the case of Reformed Calvinists they would have strongly identified with Scripture as being at the heart of the Reformation era from which they were derived historically; they would also have been influenced by Scholastic modes of theological expression, but would however likely insist that Calvinist interpretations of Scripture constitute the most direct sense of the balance of many passages of Scripture. Remonstrants on the other hand would also claim strong adherence to the practice of seeking to interpret the Scriptures directly, without the admixture of theological modes of expression that were influenced by abstract logical propositions.
Clearly, for outsiders to follow a lot of the past theological discourse of prominent Dutch ministers that so marked life in The Netherlands some centuries ago, it would be necessary for one to be fairly thoroughly acquainted with the terminologies involves and their historical background.
2) See also (in Dutch) : https://cultureelerfgoed.nl/monumenten/513882
Some sourcing: Wikipedia
Also worth seeing
In Rotterdam itself, the City Hall (Dutch: Stadhuis) — also by architect Henri Evers (see above) — is an imposing, monumental edifice; the Sint-Laurenskerk has a striking statue of Erasmus of Rotterdam; the Euromast and the Cube Houses are major landmarks; the Boijmans Van Beuningen Museum has a very widely known art collection.
Dordrecht (distance: 22 kilometres) has a historic, partly Medieval, Cathedral.
How to get there: Airlines flying to Amsterdam Airport from New York include Delta Airlines and KLM. The Dutch railroad company NS (Nederlandse Spoorwegen) maintains rail services from Amsterdam to Rotterdam . There is car rental availability at Amsterdam airport. Much of Downtown Rotterdam is eminently walkable. 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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