Roodlofts and Candlesticks Part 2

By Stuart Frost

Detail of Sculpture on the Roodloft

Work continues on preparing Gallery 50 so that building work can commence on schedule. I went to the gallery today to see how work has progressed in relation to the roodloft (see the last blog entry for more information). One of the four figures from the lowest tier has already been removed. The others will be taken down later this week so that they can all be conserved and stored safely. Once building work is complete the figures will be restored to their original positions. Conservation work on the whole object, together with new lighting, will help ensure that the roodloft looks spectacular at the heart of the new Renaissance City display in 2009.

The roodloft is a complex object. It was originally located in the cathedral of St John in Hertogenbosch. It separated the public areas of the church from those reserved for the clergy.  The platform supported an organ and a crucifix (the rood) was suspended above the roodloft. I have just written the label for this object. It proved quite a challenge to summarise its complex iconography and rich history in seventy-five words! The story of the object is intimately linked to the story of the Reformation and the political history of Hertogenbosch.

The city was part of the Spanish Netherlands when the roodloft was built between 1610-1613. The roodloft was intended to reflect the commitment of the city to Roman Catholicism. This was particularly significant in a city which had experienced religious unrest and which was close to areas of the northern Netherlands under Protestant rule. Hendrick de Keyser was sub-contracted to produce the figure of St John the Evangelist, the cathedral’s patron saint. De Keyser was based in the in the city of Amsterdam to the north and incurred the wrath of the Protestant Reform Church authorities in that city when they became aware that he was producing work for Catholic patrons. They insisted he stop work immediately. A detail of his figure of St John is illustrated below.

Detail: Figure of St John the Evangelist

The project team have decided to place a short gallery book alongside the object in the gallery. This will benefit visitors who are interested in finding out more about the object and its context. I’ve started work on the book and hope to have finished it by the end of July 2007. One of my colleagues, Kitty Jacobs, has been helping me to locate photographs, drawings and paintings that show the roodloft when it was still in its orginal location. The process of obtaining permission to reproduce images can be quite time consuming. I’m enjoying having the opportunity to research and write about such a fascinating object.

If you click on any of the images you will be able to read the new label I’ve written for the object. Please feel free to post a comment to let me know what you think of it!

Find out more information about the Medieval and Renaissance Galleries Project