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Entire Frisian provincial executive visits Friezenkerk in Rome

More help on the way for restoration

Tags: Excerpts from the Windmill

ROME Frisians already were heading for Rome when Roman emperors still controlled much of Europe. They called the coastal lowlands, the region roughly between Northern France and Denmark, Frisia. When arriving in Rome, the Lowlanders were expected to stay at the Frisian Quarter, which also had its own church, the Friezenkerk. Numerous weary travelers over the centuries attended services in this church. It was not until last month that the entire executive of the Frisian Provincial Estates, along with two of its top bureaucrats, made it to Rome to check out the 800-year old building.

Frisians, which now call home only a small part of the area originally called Frisia by the Romans, have been involved with the ongoing restoration efforts of the Friezenkerk in recent decades. Among the efforts was one that had a group collect surplus centuries-old bricks from torn down churches and monasteries for reuse in the monumental but crumbling church in Rome. It particularly suffers from damage caused by humidity and lack of climate control. The extensive restoration costs are estimated at over $1.5 million.

The delegation visited the early medieval Friezenkerk (there was an earlier Friezenkerk on the same location) to assess the financial requirements for the restorative work. Outgoing Queens Commissionaire for Friesland, Ed Nijpels, calls the church a unique Christian-cultural heritage site, which in his opinion merits financial support from his province and from the Dutch. Nijpels and Rotterdam Bishop Van Luyn ceremoniously completed the assembly of a scaffold which will be used for the restoration of the church.

The delegation of the largely Protestant province attended a Friezenkerk Eucharist service led by Van Luyn who has fond memories of Friesland, where he lived during part of his youth. Van Luyn visited Rome for unrelated reasons. Estate executive Sjoerd Galema, who is related to Father Titus Brandsma, the anti-Nazi priest who perished in Dachau and in recent years was declared a saint, read a passage from Scripture during the service. Following this, the assembly sang the customary sixth stanza of the Dutch national anthem. The Frisian executives then startled the crowd by spontaneously singing the Frisian anthem.