Across from Dordrechts main station, a neo-Gothic church, named after St. Anthony of Padua, was built in 1920-1921 to a 1916 design from architect Nicolaas Molenaar. After the official opening, the church was far from complete and the altar and pulpit from another church needed to be borrowed. Only in 1925 when Van der Cammen, the parish priest, celebrated his 25th anniversary of being a priest, he received a new Art Nouveau altar and pulpit, both designed in French sandstone by Augustinus Arnoldus van Os (1883-1940). August van Os was originally a painter but he is also known for having created numerous religious artifacts.
Art Nouveau Altar
The altar, dedicated to Our Lady of Perpetual Help, was inaugurated on 16 July, 1928. It’s crucifix, the candlesticks and the other ornaments are made of bronze. The centerpiece of the altar shows a mosaic of Our Lady, resembling a Russian icon. The pulpit, a gift of the parishioners, was decorated with symbolic representations of the four evangelists. These two important elements however, both designed in Art Nouveau style, essentially did not fit the otherwise neo-Gothic interior of the church. I find this quite interesting. Even more so, because Art Nouveau had its peak between 1897 and 1914, and Art Deco had already replaced it as the en vogue style by the time this altar was obtained.
Revisions in the liturgy that resulted from the Second Vatican Council (1962-1965) caused the interior of the church to undergo some major ‘reforms’ in 1966. One of the few original interior elements that survived the purging, was the Art Nouveau altar by August van Os. Above 1930s photo shows the pulpit, of which only the bird appears to remain today.
During the National Heritage Days in September, the St. Antonius Church was open for visitors, which offered me the opportunity to photograph the altar up-close. Now, this is clearly not the Mucha-Horta kind of Art Nouveau, with whiplashes and slender female figures etc. But I still think it’s worth showing, because this is obviously Dutch Art Nouveau. Less luscious, yet including the meandering plant elements, and some gargoyles.
Just a small note here about the Art Deco tiles behind the altar as they appear to be quite rare: with the much appreciated help of Dutch Canadian tile-specialist Frans Woons, I learned today that these tin-glazed tiles are called Mauro tiles. They were developed in 1922 by Henri de Rouw (1882-1948), the artistic advisor at ‘De Lint’, and Heinrich Wilhelm Mauser (1868-1940), the technical director at De Porceleyne Fles between 1904 and 1930. De Lint was sole agent for tiles and related products from De Porceleyne Fles since 1898 which benefited both companies. In close cooperation these two men developed several new products, one of the first being the Mauro tile. The name Mauro is a combination of Mauser and De Rouw. Mauro tiles were baked at a high temperature, which made the clay compact and hard, and particularly durable. And durability, together with the anti-slip effect of the raw surface, made these tiles excellent as floor tiles in public buildings where visitors run in and out, regardless of the weather outside. In this rare case however, they were applied to a wall…
Beeldende Kunst in Noord-Brabant
Geheugen van Nederland
Nederlands Tegelmuseum over tegelhandel A.N. de Lint
Regionaal Archief Tilburg
SNS Historisch Centrum
SNS Historisch Centrum – Virtual Exhibition
Wikipage Sint-Antoniuskerk Dordrecht (Dutch)
Website of the St. Antonius Church
Website Open Monumentendagen 2013