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Internet home to digital image bank of Dutch 3,000 churches

Collection started in 1965

Tags: Excerpts from the Windmill

GRONINGEN, the Netherlands - A research institute at Groningen University has posted on its website about 60,000 images of 3,000 Dutch churches. The collection of images which was started in 1965 and includes both Protestant and Roman Catholic buildings, are listed by place names. The addition of descriptions to the largely black and white photograph collection has been started. The institute sells copies of interior and exterior images for €12.50 each.

The digital image bank is the largest of its kind, according to the Institute for Liturgical Studies at the university. The institute describes it as an overview of the country’s inventory of monuments of which a very significant part is made up of church buildings. The image bank also serves as an information source for practical research in such categories as restorations or local history projects.

The image bank has already attracted 45,000 visitors since its launch, including a Dutch immigrant couple in Canada who were interested in the church building in the village of Loënga. Listed alphabetically and by village or town, one or more buildings will be visable, starting with the building’s exterior, sometimes being a very old picture. Some church buildings are represented with images taken from various angles. Interior images include stained windows and architectural details. One image from the church at Valkenswaard shows a richly decorated interior wall while Buiksloot’s church as yet makes do without an interior image.

Institute director Dr. R. Steensma, who started the image collection, and his successor Dr. J. Kroesen also had to look beyond the Dutch border for their research. Some years ago they published the book The Interior of the Medieval Village Church, a comparative study of liturgical layouts in fourteen different countries.

While many churches have been closed, the interest in them as monuments has not waned. The creation of the image bank confirms that fact, which according to Kroesen has taken hundreds of thousands of euros to complete. Private funding has never been a problem, however.

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