Witte Kerk (White Church) Heiloo

Heiloo Witte kerk

The history of the White Church in Heiloo, at least a little church in the same place, goes back to the beginning of the eleventh century, but it would already have been founded around the year 700, when the first Christian preachers settled in this region. This was the Benedictine monk Willibrord and eleven other Catholics who came here from England to preach the gospel to the (West) Frisians.

From excavations, where they found the remains of an early medieval wooden church, leading experts concluded from this that there must have been a church even before 900 at the current location. It is not clear that Willibrord was in Heiloo and founded the church, but a clue might be that it was named after him well forward of the church. He, on his trek through the coastal area of Kennemerland and West Friesland, would here miraculously have made a spring source.

wittekerk contouren middeleeuwenOutlines Medieval church

Until far into the nineteenth century, this “Willibrordusput” was a simple brick parapet, constructed in a seven corner just above the sandstone slabs of the well casing. The well was renovated in 1881 to a design by the famous architect P.J.H. Cuypers. In 1947 it got its present form: the brick parapet and putround, a pulley, a wooden cover against pollution and a shelter.

In 739 Willibrord dies in a monastery he founded in Echternach, Luxembourg, where his possessions were bequeathed to the Monastic order. In 1063, the church of Heilegelo, that was called then so (in the course of the centuries the village had about 25 names), was described for the first time in the ownership records of the said monastery. After much struggle between the counts of Friesland and the rulers signed an agreement in 1156, where the monastery of Echternach quited his claims on the church of Heiloo.

Disputed ownership
The tuff stone church dating from the eleventh century – with tower and built on a dunewall – was the “mother church” for the whole area. Because of its revenues it was a long time also a controversial possession: believers had to pay annual ‘tithe’, a tenth of which yielded their crops, and transfer it for the maintenance of their church.

The Romanesque church building was owned by the Abbey of Egmond (-Binnen). The ship measured 21 by 10 meters and turned into a chorus of about 9 by 7 meters, enclosed by a semicircular apcis. In the fifteenth century the church was extended with a transept and a Gothic choir of 16 meters. A sacristy was being built against it.

That fifteenth century was a golden age for the church of Heiloo. The Abbey could well use the revenues, although the collecting of the ‘tithe’ often caused problems. The church has well survived the iconoclastic, in August 1566 (for which the rise of Protestantism in many European countries was the reason). But two years later, in 1568, it was heavily damaged in a fire. Already on February 20th in 1569 the restored Church could be rededicated by the Bishop of Haarlem. The joy was for a short time, for in August 1573, at the siege of Alkmaar, it was largely destroyed by the army of Sonoy – who conducted a reign of terror among Catholics in the head of North Holland. Only the front portion and the tower remained intact.

witte kerk plattegrondChurch Plan

In protestant hands
In subsequent years the Reformed demanded – at that time the groupname for Calvinists – the White Church for there religion, because they, as well as Roman Catholics, regarded themselves as the “true church”. The Reformed Church in Heiloo then had a central function for the whole village community. Therefor the Reformed, as a privileged minority, could take the church building in use.

In 1586, together with Egmond-Binnen the first vicr Ds. Sloot was appointed. Only in 1619, under Ds. Pieter Jansz, Heiloo became a separate, so independent church. But he remained until his retirement, in 1633, vicar of both Egmond as Heiloo. The Romanesque tower was built later than the original church and was also lower: the part where are now the dials was cemented on the medieval basement in the seventeenth century , probably in 1650, what can be deduced from a keystone of an arch with this vintage.

Earlier, in 1630 the church was partly built up with three new walls on the east side, so again church services could be held. Against the center wall the pulpit was placed, fronted by a railing, called parclose, which still now stands at the pulpit displaced in 1966. An organ, however, was missing.

After the departure of Pieter Jansz. the people could welcome its first own pastor; ds. J. Curtius. Rev. Curtius was standing on a simple, low pulpit without sounding board and in his ordinary clothes. The vicar, who was in poor health, died three years later in 1636 and was buried in the church. His successor, the Rev. Velsius, held the full thirty years.

The original late Gothic choir remained as ruins still until 1764. Then they cleared it up. The contours of that part of the medieval cruciform church are visible by means of paving in the garden on the east side of the present church building.

It must be remembered that Heiloo (and Oesdom) at that time had only a few hundred inhabitants. In 1494 the villages counted together 115 ‘hearths’, in 1632 there were 126 houses, in 1795 there were 455 people, of whom most were Roman Catholic. Only 37 families were then joined the White Church. A few more numbers: in 1850 there were 750 inhabitants (reformed 210), in 1899 about 1880 (reformed 750), in 1920 more than 3,000, in 1948 10,000 was passed (reformed 2250). In1995 that was 21,000 (including 1,500 reformed). On January 1st, 2007 Heiloo had 21.980 inhabitants. On January 1st, 2016 there are 22.690 inhabitants.

During the Batavian Republic (1795-1806) the separation of church and state came and thus the reformed church lost its authority and influence. The Dutch Reformed Church was born, also at the hands of King William I, and in April 1816 it was named by General Regulations. The White Church was then held by the Reformed congregation Heiloo.

In the past two centuries the church was thoroughly restored several times. Between 1822 and 1829 the pulpit was put in the choir, the church was painted white in order to hide the rickety repairs. The cemetery wall was replaced by a hedge of lime trees (in the Second World War all but three limes were cut and used as fuel for the numb people of Heiloo). The total cost amounted to 1,700 guilders. Of these, the churchmembers paid the ‘very high level’ of 281 guilders, the rest was accounted for by the government (1,200 guilders), churchwardens and parish. From that time it is called the Little White Church, later the White Church.

witte kerk preekstoelPulpit

In 1863, the south wall was demolished and re-built of red “Waal”stone. The Romanesque wooden windows in the north wall were replaced by neo-Gothic windows. The “Zaandammer” roof and the exterior doors were renewed and the stone floor was re-laid. The tower, which was destroyed by lightning, was rebuilt. After World War II again a wall around the church and the cemetery was build. A memorial stone at the Willibrord Put from 1950 remembers that.

At the next restoration between 1964 and 1966, the church received its current appearance. Architect
H. F. Rapange from Amsterdam signed it: the wooden roof was repaired, new window frames installed, walls plastered again, the side entrances were closed. In the north wall a kind of gate was made, which could serve as an emergency exit. (That was renewed in early 2005 under the more stringent safety requirements.)
Henceforth the only entrance was under the more than 37 meters high tower. The trans (circulation) was removed around the tower, the church bell and clock changed places and hence the belfry and the dials. Inside the gallery and the new organ were moved to the west wall, a sound system was made and the big old side-banks were removed, creating more space for chairs.

The cost of this restoration was approximately 105,000 guilders for the tower, which is owned by the local authorities, almost 90,000 guilders for the exterior, what was half paid by the state and 95,000 guilders for the internal restoration, entirely by the churchwardens.

Circle ‘Kring’ of Heiloo
One particular period in the history of the White Church can not remain unmentioned.

In 1836 ds. J.P. Hasebroek (1812-1896) became vicar in Heiloo and moved, as he described it to “a sweet, nice little house, behind the green limetrees and with a lawn that was the playing field from the village youth”.
That ‘house’ is the several times restored and enlarged white building across the Kennemerstraatweg, from 1982 used as an ancient room.

When pastor-poet Hasebroek settled in Heiloo, he had graduated just in Leiden. He lived in the rectory with his sister Betsy, a writer of novels, which had come to do the housework. His house soon became a meeting place for poets and Nicolaas Beets (1814-1903, known under the pseudonym Hildebrand as the author of the Camera Obscura), A.L.G. Toussaint (later Truitje Bosboom-Toussaint), Jacob van Lennep, W. J. Hofdijk and E. J. Potgieter.

The group of young writers / poets went down in history as “the circle of Heiloo”. This “circle” had no direct literary purpose. It was about irregular, casual gatherings of young people, literary gifted or were seized by the then modern direction of romance.

Nicolaas Beets, promoted in 1839 as a theologian summa cum laude, resented Hasebroek that he was staying in Heiloo and not moved away for him. Beets, however, forgot