(NCR) Largest-ever retrospective underscores Hieronymus Bosch’s Catholic faith

Den Bosch gargoyles

Den Bosch gargoyles (from St. John’s Cathedral). Photo by Menachem Wecker

My article “Largest-ever retrospective underscores Hieronymus Bosch’s Catholic faith” appears in National Catholic Reporter. Here’s the lede:

DEN BOSCH, NETHERLANDS — The sweeping views of the medieval city of ‘s-Hertogenbosch are among the rewards for trekking 200-something feet up the temporary scaffolding affixed to St. John’s Cathedral, the largest Roman Catholic church in the Netherlands.

The panoramic views of the city, colloquially Den Bosch (“the forest”), represent an unfolding cityscape in which modern buildings and construction cranes are embedded within iconic 17th-century (and earlier) Dutch architecture. The marriage of old and new also punctuates the cathedral, which was begun in the 13th century and assumed its Gothic façade a century later. It has since undergone several restorations and suffered in a few fires.

One of the church’s most striking features, which arrests viewers both from ground level and more dramatically as they climb the scaffolding, is the sculptural program: 96 figures attached to the flying buttresses. (A Gothic architectural invention, flying buttresses look like external ribbing, which support high-ceilinged churches.)

Here, too, centuries are bridged; a new addition of an angel, which stands near the other sculptures, wears jeans and holds a cellphone to its ear.

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