Re: Re: reorganisation and destruction of irish catholic churches
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The Gothic Revival in Holland
Architect No. 2
P.J.H. Cuypers (1827-1921)
Petrus J. H. Cuypers, also known as Pierre Cuypers, was responsible for the design of many churches in neo-Gothic style in the Netherlands, and as such is one of the leading figures in the proces of catholic emancipation in the second half of the 19th century.
He was born in a family where an artistic interest was encouraged. Cuypers’ father was a merchant, as well as a church painter. Beginning in 1844, in a time when education of arts in the Netherlands was at a miserably low level, he studied architecture at the Academy of Fine Arts in Antwerpen, Belgium. Among his teachers were Frans Andries Durlet, Frans Stoop and Ferdinand Berckmans, pioneers of neo-Gothicism in Belgium. Cuypers completed his study 1849 with the best possible results and returns to Roermond as a celebrity. In 1850 he made a journey through the German Rhineland, where he visited the completion of the cathedral of Cologne. Ca. 1854 he attended classes by the French restoration-architect E.E. Viollet-le-Duc, who became one of Cuypers’ friends and a major influence in his entire career. Back home he became Roermond’s town-architect.
Cuypers was the man who brought craftmanship back in the Netherlands’ architecture. His office became a school for many architects who were taught all skills of the profession. Besides this, he also participated in a factory for religious art, Atelier Cuypers-Stoltzenberg, that provided complete church-interiors and was founded in 1852.
Besides designing new churches and other buildings, Cuypers also was responsible for numerous restorations of existing churches, including those of many medieval, now protestant churches. His attempts to restore parts of such churches back to their original state occasionally was a cause of conflict with the protestant community that used such a church. Apart from his architectural work, Cuypers was a gifted artist in other respects too, and his work includes several important monuments, tapestries and a piano, a gift to his second wife.
Although Cuypers’ churches usually are of a high quality, there are many reasons for criticism. Like most architects of that time, Cuypers had no problems with sacrificing the authentic look of a medieval church and replacing it with his own typical style, or even completely replacing a centuries-old church by a new one. Small villages saw their small churches replaced by cathedral-size constructions, and a church in Romanesque style could easily become a Gothic one if Cuypers decided that would be appropriate. He was convinced that his designs could compete with the greatest Gothic churches in France and probably were even better, and likewise thought a restoration was a good opportunity to ‘improve’ a church’s appearance, reason why his restorations have often been called falsifications since. For Cuypers churches and other old buildings were not simply reminders of the past, but objects that still had a function.
On advice of his friends, catholic writer, poet, art critic and future brother-in-law J.A. Alberdingk Thijm and French architect and expert on Gothicism Viollet le Duc, Cuypers moved to Amsterdam in 1865. The official reason Cuypers gave was that he needed a more vibrant and artistic environment. In reality, the controversy over his restoration of the Munsterkerk in Roermond will have played a role in this as well. This also gave him an opportunity to escape from the competition with his rival Carl Weber. In Amsterdam he built some of his most ingenious churches, forced by the limitations of the available space in this formerly protestant city. Besides, he also built several houses here. Although still the master of neo-Gothic, in Amsterdam he started to add Renaissance elements to his more profane designs, like the central station and Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam. These two buildings are among his most controversial designs, as many protestants were outraged that a catholic, a second-class citizen in their eyes, was commissioned to design two buildings that were regarded as being of national (read: protestant) importance. It’s ironic that with these two buildings Cuypers in fact invented the neo-Renaissance style, which became very popular mainly in protestant circles.
In 1894 he returned to his hometown, where he died in 1921, after having worked behind the scenes for his son Joseph Cuypers for several years.
Cuypers’ career can be divided in two periods. In the first period, the architect mostly built neo-Gothic churches which are highly influenced by 13th-century French Gothic and , to a lesser degree, Rhineland Romanogothic churches. Alberdingk Thijm urged Cuypers to fully study the Gothic architecture of that period, in his eyes the last truly catholic architectural style, which must be the starting point for the development of a new one. Like their never had been a Reformation. Cuypers’ marriage with Alberdingk Thijm’s sister further increases the bond between the two.
The second period of Cuypers’ career is the more interesting one. From the 1870’s, Cuypers starts combining his style with other influences. His knowledge of the national Gothic styles increases, especially as a result of his being appointed to national advisor for monumental buildings in 1874, his friendship with Victor de Stuers, an activist for the protection of historical buildings, and the expansion of the railroad. Also of importance is the St. Bernulphusgilde (‘Guild of St. Bernulphus’), a group of religious artists the most important of which is architect Alfred Tepe, which is so powerful in the archdiocese of Utrecht that Cuypers has no choice but giving in to their demands if he wants to get commissioned in this area which covers a large portion of the country. Other interests in this period include the Gothic styles of England, Scandinavia and Italy.
Cuypers was respected outside his country too. In 1870 he is appointed Dombaumeister of Mainz and advisor of the archbishop in architecture matters until 1877. In this function he restores the east part of the cathedral of Mainz, as well as restoring several other churches and building a few new buildings, until in 1877 Joseph Lucas, also from Roermond, succeeds him. In Belgium he builds two churches and completes or restores a few others.
Sadly, today Cuypers is usually remembered as ‘the architect of the central station and Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam’. Many of Cuypers’ more important designs have already been demolished or otherwise destroyed, but many still remain. Many of his drastic restorations have in part been made undone as the result of a change of taste.