History of the Oudenbosch Basilica
From afar you can see the dome of the Oudenbosch Basilica in the landscape so typical for this part of Brabant. But when you're getting closer to the Basilica it gets more and more impressive. With a length of 81 meters, a width of 55 meters and a heigth of 63 meters, this Basilica is a scaled copy of St Peters Basilica in Rome.
How did a small town like Oudenbosch with only 3.500 inhabibants in 1865 built this impressive and unique church in the Netherlands?
Interested in the stories about the Basilica? For more information and background the stories offer you everything you want to know. That's not included in this timeline.
In the year 1275, the lord of Breda gifts the grounds of Baerlebosch and Gastele to the Abbey of Hemiksem. These wild grounds with swamps needs cultivation. The monks and brothers start with their work. Through the years, Baerlebosch becomes a trading town for peat. After the Elizabethsflood, which kills thousands in the southwestern part of the Netherlands, Baerlebosch becomes Oudenbosch.
In 1425, just 4 years after the Elizabethsflood, a new church, the Agatha church is built. This church will dominate the Oudenbosch' skyline until the 19th century, when the Oudenbosch Basilica is built.
The young priest Willem Hellemons arrives in Oudenbosch after his priest studies in Rome. When he becomes the new pastor, he is only 32 years old and filled with ambition. During his studies in Rome, he gets inspired by the impressive catholic basilicas such as the St Peter and Saint John of Lateran. When he starts as a pastor, he soon notices the old Agatha church is too small for the fast growing number of catholics in Oudenbosch.
In 1865 the construction starts, but years of planning and designing precedes. Willem Hellemons asks the famous dutch architect Petrus (Pierre) Cuypers to design and build this new parish church. Cuypers, a neogothic architect, prefers a neogothic church over a neoclassicistic church, but Hellemons is persistent, and Cuypers travels to Rome for research. After permission being granted by the bisshop, the construction starts.
It takes 15 years, until 1880 to build the churches nave. But this doesn't mean the church is completed. The contrary.
After completion of the nave, two other projects start. The churches front and the decoration still need a lot of work. The front is a partial copy of Saint John Lateran and decoration will be the biggest task to be done. In 1892, the churches front is completed by G.J. van Swaay. At that time, decoration isn't even halfway completed. It would take Kiske Raaijmakers until the '30 to complete decoration together with his team. Inhabitants saw a work of art changing day by day, every day closer to completion.
As soon as the front was completed, the church was initiated.
The Oudenbosch Basilica was built during a time where lots of Zouaves, the voluntary army for the Pope, traveled to Rome through Oudenbosch. The Basilica was built in honour of those men. With construction almost completed, a monument, remembering the Zouaves was unveiled in front of the Basilica.
The Oudenbosch Basilica wasn't a Basilica up to 1912. During a special service in 1912, the church received the title Basilica Minor. A church receives this title because of its history, beauty or relics in place. It's not the history or relics, but it's special story together with the relation of the Basilica with Rome which gives this church the right to be called a Basilica Minor.
It didn't take long or the first renovations were needed. The first parts of the Basilica were allready over 47 years old. Through the years the organ, rooftop and terrazzofloors have been renovated thoroughly. Since 1954 the Foundation Preservation Basilica Oudenbosch organises the renovations and maintenance of the Basilica. Together with the Foundation Promotion Basilica Oudenbosch they collect funds through gifts, tours, rent and other activities to preserve the Oudenbosch Basilica.
Heritage and history of Oudenbosch
The Oudenbosch Basilica is an important part of the history of Oudenbosch. The Basilica is a result of the growing catholicism in Noord-Brabant. Around the Basilica you will find a lot of heritage worth visiting such as the former boys school St. Louis, Tivoli Observatory and Botanical Garden Arboretum. During a city walk in Oudenbosch a guide will tell you more about the history.