Tuesday, June 10, 2008

BPN 1124 Database of houses of prayer

Yesterday a new Dutch website was launched. Now is the launch of a website not always exciting, but the launch of this one was. For two reasons: a. the website is database about religious heritage; the website was launched in the church where I was an altar boy.

2008 is the year of year of religious heritage such as churches, monasteries, convents, but also synagogues and mosques. The website launched offers access to a database of 18.000 contemporary and past buildings for religious use. The database is founded on the collection of Jan Sonneveld, who started to make an inventory of these buildings. The database uses open software such as Google Earth for visual location information and Wikipedia. Information can be added by anyone, but the information will be checked by a group of editors, which takes care of the reliability of the database.

The website is intended for a large audience; there is also a closed section for policymakers. The database is intended to be the most complete, up-to-date and dynamic inventory with descriptions, photographs and graphics of the buildings still in use for religious services and buildings of which the destination has been changed. If you ask now people, even experts, how many churches, synagogues and mosques are in The Netherlands, you will get a guestimate. No one really knows.

And an inventory is needed. The Netherlands has undergone quite some changes in the religious area. In the seventies many Catholics turned their backs on the Roman Catholic church. The parishes became smaller and the churches got another destination or were demolished. But also other buildings for religious services such as synagogues were discontinued. On the other hand, many migrants from the Mediterranean area moved to The Netherlands and founded their prayer houses like mosques. The inventory will make clear how dramatic the situation of religious heritage really is. Churches have been converted into supermarkets. And I have seen a church (Goede Raad in the city of Utrecht; not in the wiki yet) being demolished despite its beautiful wall paintings.

The database was launched during a ceremony at the St Jozef Church in Arnhem. With some sentiment I looked at the photograph of the church where I was an altar boy; a beautiful, majestic church. It has now lost its religious destination, but will be converted into the home of a regional broadcasting station. I found a series of moody photographs with one on the left.

Blog Posting Number: 1124


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