De 96 Luchtboogfiguren Op De Sint-Jan * Ronald Glaudemans (adr. heinen 2004 * isbn 9077721126)

The Sint Jan (Saint John’s) cathedral in ‘s-Hertogenbosch (or Den Bosch) in the Netherlands is one of the biggest Dutch cathdrals. There has been a church since 1220, but the gothic church only appeared after 1380. The cathedral is famous for its double bows which prevent the high walls from collapsing under the pressure of the roof. In contrary to most other gothic churches, the builders of the Sint Jan decorated the bows with 96 small statues. During the renovation started in 1859 all of the medieval statues have been replaced. This work was mostly done by the young Lambert Hezenmans (1841-1909). For many years many people were of the opinion that Hezenmans did a lousy job, the new statues supposedly looked nothing like the originals. Glaudemans found out that this is highly exaggerated. A few of the original statues (of which only a few survived) that were unrecognisable were replaced, on some Hezenmans got carried away with his fantasy and some others were slighly altered, but in most cases Hezenmans stayed close to the originals.
The statues can be found outside of the building, so they are exposed to sun, rain and wind. When walking alongside the cathedral, you can see the statues, but always from the back and they are of course high up. This 97 page booklet has photos of all of the statues with a description and sometimes a possible explanation and a proper history of the church and the restaurations. There are different groups of statues, some depict professions, other monsters, deformed human figures or figures playing instruments. Some people say that the statues have hidden Masonic symbolism (Freemasonry came forth from ‘operative masonry’ in the Middle Ages). Some statues are obviously symbolic, but I am not sure about the overtly Masonic symbolism. For ‘artistic reasons’ (or because of copyright?) the photos of the statues are mostly small and the person who did the layout of this book, made the two lines with photos (above and below on the pages, the text is in the middle) in squares, so the photos are often cut in four. Some pages have a larger photo. For the rest the booklet is very well printed and fairly informative, so it is a nice buy about an interesting ‘phenomenon’. If you want an idea of what I am talking about, go to www.sint-jan.nl and then click “interactief” and “fotoreportage”.

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