The Saint Willibrord Church in Holwerd is a special church. It has an unusual L-shaped construction and a tower with a remarkably large spire. The church also has a beautiful pulpit.
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The Saint Willibrord Church was built between 1776-1778 on the same spot as its tuff stone predecessor. The planners wanted the new building to align with the 13th-century tower, which created an unusual L-shaped floorplan. It became, as it were, a half-cross church. Architecturally, the church belongs to the family of the Central Churches in the Louis XVI style.
The brick masonry is interrupted by arched windows that regained their old, 18th-century wooden panes during the restoration of 1968. Masonry pilasters support a large wooden entablature. The entrances to the church building are framed with natural stone gates. One, with classical ornamentation, dates from the time the church was built and was created by the stonemason Jelle Agema.
Next to the entrance is a remarkable stone with an inscription regarding the dikes at Holwerd in the period 1580-1584. Another stone from 1776 refers to the year of the church’s construction.
The church interior is covered by a lovely barrel-vaulted ceiling. Of particular interest is the pulpit along the north wall dating from 1778 and made by woodcarver Yge Rintjes from Dokkum. The pulpit has rococo decoration and is a lovely sight in combination with the baptistry screen. This is further emphasized by the wealth of copper work consisting of a lectern, an hourglass holder, two candlesticks on the pulpit and a baptismal basin holder on the stairs. Inside the church are a number of large historic tombstones with names of aristocratic families such as Van Alya, Tziessens, Jaersama, Ringia and Bonga. There are also some crypts.
The tower is a historical monument in itself. The striking spire dating from 1729 has long served as a beacon for ships on the Wadden Sea. At 52 meters high, it is one of the tallest church towers in Friesland. The tower houses two bells, one of which was made by Jurien Balthasar in Leeuwarden in 1653. There was originally another bell dating from 1600, but it was seized and melted down by the German occupying forces in 1943 and was replaced in 1974 with a bell first used in the Heilige Hartparochie in The Hague and made in 1950. The clock movement was renewed in 1912. The tower is owned by the municipality of Dongeradeel.
There was a major renovation in 1852. The gallery at the time was dismantled to make way for an organ made by J.C. Scheuer and Zn. from Zwolle. The current gallery was built in order to retain enough seats. The organ was extensively renovated in 1907 by Bakker & Timmenga from Leeuwarden and again restored in 1988.
BUILDING STYLE: Louis XVI style
LOCATION: The large church is located on the outskirts of the village.
CURRENT USE: Holwerd’s church was taken over in 2008 by the Alde Fryske Tsjerken Foundation.