If I had a column in the Delft op Zondag

(Not the real)
Delft op Zondag


9 JULY 2017

The Old Church

DELFT - It is a rare visitor that does not have a picture taken of himself as if holding up the tower of the Old Church. It is probably much like the photo that he made when he visited Pisa. A person can Google 'leaning towers' and find quite a few. The one in Mosul was unique, as much for its piety as for its twists and tilts.

Ours does not twist but does lean nicely. My source is Wiki which has this to say:'The Oude Kerk (Old Church), nicknamed Oude Jan ("Old John") and Scheve Jan ("Skewed John"), is a Gothic Protestant church in the old city center of Delft, the Netherlands. Its most recognizable feature is a 75-meter-high brick tower that leans about two meters from the vertical.' That is a sign of faith for you.


Maybe because we have a leaning tower also, I read about the leaning tower of a mosque in Iraq: 'The al-Nuri mosque dated back to 1172 and was Mosul's most famous Sunni mosque. It was named after the Muslim leader, Nur al-Din Mahmoud Zanki, famous for waging jihad against Christian crusaders.' The Daesh cult destroyed it recently.

Delft's Old Church has weathered wars, fires and the day the gunpowder storehouse exploded. Although started in 1246, it was erected where churches had been for 2 centuries. Actually, the tower was added after 1325 and leaned from the start. Dutch builders are stubborn: they built counter to the lean the higher they went. They have been trying first this then that since someone first pointed out that the tower 'appeared' to be, you know, not quite right.

Until they solve the weak ground issue under the church, folks will continue to attend services there and just not think about the tower. Anyway, the lean is away from the congregation. Meanwhile, it brings in tourist euros, but the great bell high in the tower is not often rung because engineers are just not sure...

There is a small feeling of anxiety if one stands right under the tower. It is not just something huge, made of bricks, that is looming above, it is leaning over as well - a downward judgment in the slant of its louvers.

Holy days, feasts and saints aside, religion is a serious matter. Most who believe in and have faith accept that they will be judged. Standing before a house of God, one with a tower such as ours, is like being on the scales.

Considering the soul-less desecration of the historic mosque in Mosul, Delft should be happy that when the building went from Catholic to Reform, no one wanted to destroy it when it changed from their version of truth.

The image I am using for this column is from the web, the season is full summer here, not winter as in the photo. In it, the lean of the tower is stark, obvious, and speaks to the Dutch way of dealing with problems.

Smaller bells are rung each hour in concert with the Nieuwe Kerk and the Maria van Jessekerk. The differing tenets among religion are overwhelming, but at least all faiths, and those of little faith, can agree on the hour.

G. Wiley / NLStrabo - © Copyright - All rights reserved - gwileynl@gmail.com
In memory of Herb Caen