UCAN Philippines Catholic Church News
Happy Easter to all

As Dutch churches shut, sacred art finds new use abroad

May 7, 2012
As Dutch churches shut, sacred art finds new use abroad thumbnail
Eugene van Deutekom, archivist and historian for the Roman Catholic diocese of ‘s-Hertogenbosch in the Netherlands, inspects statues stored in the basement of the Museum of Religious Art in the southern Dutch city of Uden, March 20, 2012.

In the Netherlands, two churches close down on average every week. The sacred art left over is piling up in cellars and storerooms around the country.

Some congregations elsewhere have the opposite problem. New Catholic and Protestant churches are springing up in Latin America, Africa and Asia, and pastors in eastern Europe are seeking to refurbish churches used for decades as warehouses or factories.

A pioneering network of Dutch religious art experts, concerned by the accumulation of objects with both artistic and spiritual significance, has been struggling to match some of their supply to this new demand.

Thanks to their work, a Roman Catholic cathedral in the Dominican Republic now boasts a marble altar from a church in Eindhoven that is being turned into a health center.

Another Catholic church slated to become a municipal library and theater has donated pews, statues and crucifixes to a church in Lviv, Ukraine, that was used as a gas mask factory during the communist era. A Dutch Reformed church has donated a silver communion set to a Protestant parish in Romania.

“If we have something we can’t use, there is nothing better than to know it is being used in another church,” said Rev Martien Mesch, who has sent truckloads of surplus items to Ukraine from two Catholic churches he had to close down in the town of Vught, near the southern Dutch city of ‘s-Hertogenbosch.

Eugene van Deutekom, diocesan archivist and historian for the Catholic diocese headquartered in the southern Dutch city, said surplus objects should be transferred if possible to churches still in use and valuable ones donated to museums in the Netherlands.

But if there is no place for them at home, the experts help closing churches donate this heritage to the growing number of churches abroad who have asked for everything from fine gold and silver vessels to heavy wooden pew benches.

“We give parishes a way to find a good second life for sacred objects,” van Deutekom explained. “If an object was made to be used in the liturgy, I want to keep it in the liturgy.”

The religious aspect makes this work unique in the art world.

“I’m not a fine arts dealer,” said van Deutekom, stressing even simple statues could have special meaning for the faithful. “My interest is not in the economic value of an object, but its devotional value.”

The steep drop in religious practice over the past half century and the population shift toward the more secularized cities are two main factors driving the phenomenon.

“Catholic Church attendance here was the highest in Europe, over 90 percent,” said Rev Jan Stuyt from Nijmegen, where he is part of a team choosing which churches to close in the city.

“Now it’s down to French levels,” the Jesuit priest said, meaning under 10 percent. “That’s the Dutch way of doing things – all or nothing!”

Report from Vancouver Sun

  • Gordon Jacobs

    Its understandable that wen the church shuts down, thieves steal the church art is stolen.Here in India church art is stolen when the church is alive. In one case it is alleged that even the local parish priest was involved in attempting to sell off a 400 year old wooden alter and pulpit.Had it not been for the locals, the then bishop and a media reporter the alter would have left the shores of India. However surprising the parish priest is still around and nothing has been done to get to the bottom of the issue.
    These are the ways of the administration here at Mumbai, India.
    I have news paper reports to back my claim and this reports is written by a practicing catholic from Mumbai.
    Any takes to get to the bottom of this?

stay in touch
Subscribe to UCAN Philippines
Free newsletter here
Invite a Friend
top stories
  1. about us - 15 emails
  2. Who is a Roman Catholic? - 10 emails
  3. Creation not man’s property, pope says as Advent begins - 7 emails
  4. Pacquiao plans ‘preaching session’ after fight - 7 emails
  5. Bishop accused of diverting millions - 7 emails
  6. Priest backs Filipina’s bid in ‘American Idol’ - 6 emails
  7. Tagle says Church needs to be rescued from self-interest - 6 emails
  8. ‘Weeping’ Mary draws hundreds to Windsor residence - 5 emails
  9. Porn documentary to show at World Youth Day - 5 emails
  10. Exorcism is God’s gift ‘to help us believe’ - 5 emails
  1. Philippine bishop calls for Holy Week ceasefire
  2. A funny thing about being a priest
  3. Examining the holiness of Holy Week
  4. Philippine troops in new clashes with Abu Sayyaf
  5. Abu Sayyaf clashes in Mindanao leave 18 soldiers injured
  6. A call for compassion on marriage and the Eucharist
  7. Philippine tribe gets ancestral land back
  8. Outcry over Myanmar journalist's imprisonment
  9. Film and the politics of faith: “Son of God,” Pope Francis and the conservative Catholic Church
  10. 'Farmers Barred from Promised Land'
  1. Examining the holiness of Holy Week
  2. Philippine bishop calls for Holy Week ceasefire
  3. Philippine tribe gets ancestral land back
  4. Philippine troops in new clashes with Abu Sayyaf
  5. ‘Farmers Barred from Promised Land’
  6. Film and the politics of faith: “Son of God,” Pope Francis and the conservative Catholic Church
  7. A call for compassion on marriage and the Eucharist
  8. A funny thing about being a priest
  9. Outcry over Myanmar journalist’s imprisonment
  10. Abu Sayyaf clashes in Mindanao leave 18 soldiers injured
  1. On September 20, speaking to a gathering of gynecologists, Pope Francis said: "E...
    Said FrSeanCoyle on 2013-10-09 16:05:00
  2. Here is what Pope Benedict said to the bishops of Switzerland on November 9, 200...
    Said FrSeanCoyle on 2013-10-09 16:02:00
  3. stop RHbill for Gods sake!!!...
    Said joy on 2013-07-17 20:03:00
  4. a woman who agree this RH bill has no heart. God forgive her she do'nt know what...
    Said joy on 2013-07-17 20:02:00
  5. It is very hard to trust a muslim. They worship a false god and will break the ...
    Said on 2013-07-17 12:23:00
  6. Assuredly, thus said the LORD GOD ALMIGHTY YISRAEL to Roman Christian Catholic B...
    Said Angel Santie on 2013-06-28 19:39:00
  7. God let man or as we say permit man to create this way of comunication, why we w...
    Said joy on 2013-06-26 20:46:00
  8. Pray for the victims of clergy sexual abuse....
    Said on 2013-06-06 08:01:00
  9. 'Activist priest Robert Reyes is in the minority among the clergy when it comes ...
    Said on 2013-04-24 15:04:00
  10. 90-year-old Fr Emmanuel Non SJ had a letter in last Monday's Philippine Daily In...
    Said on 2013-04-18 10:41:00
UCAN India Books Online
;