Photo: Dirk Vertumen
Restoration of the dilapidated Predikherenkerk in Mechelen is in full swing. Heritage Day on Sunday, September 12th is a unique opportunity to climb up the scaffolding and get a closer look at the courtyard. During the transition from 2023 to 2024, Het Predikheren will expand here with a cultural hotspot and additional library space.
Mechelen owes the 17th century Predikherenklooster in Goswin de Stassartstraat to preachers from Hertogenbosch in the Netherlands. They fled Protestant forces, and eventually ended up in Diggle after wandering in 1651. Due to their limited financial resources, they built their monastery for nearly eighty years.
The religious order came to the church only in 1720-1735, but was never completed. “This church does not have a Baroque facade as richly decorated as the Begijnhof Church,” says Evelyn de Hees, an architect in the city’s Department of Projects and Antiquities. In 1796 the French occupiers confiscated the church and a nursing home was built for the elderly. From 1809 it served as a military hospital and later as a barracks and training center.
Little by little, the church fell into disrepair, as renovations were made with little respect for the monument. Until a fire in 1946 destroyed the roof and the middle levels of the artillery depot disappeared. The church was given a solid roof with metal trusses, but it remained empty. When soldiers left Mechelen in 1975, the church continued to deteriorate, like the abbey. It was only used intermittently. Recently for vtm “My Restaurant”.
In the late summer of 2019, Het Predikheren inaugurated the new municipal library in the former monastery. Since the end of last year, restoration work on the facades of the church has continued. As with the monastery, the designers opted for a gentle restoration. “It should prevent further water damage indoors. Work there also started recently,” says Quinn Anchio (Vld-Groen-m+), a member of the local council of antiquities.
With the support of 2.7 million euros from the Flemish government, the city has allocated more than 3.2 million euros for this purpose. An important work is the cleaning of the facades with bricks and sandstone. “We keep as much brickwork as possible. Only when it is really necessary does the contractor make repairs using recycled bricks or complete locally with new bricks,” explains Evelyn de Haese. The contractor should also retain weathered natural stone as much as possible. “We only replace badly damaged parts.”
For large windows, contractor Monument-Vandekerckhove works with new steel or wood joinery with insulating glass. Where possible, the city is on a sustainable path. “We’re replacing roofs with natural slate panels and aluminum panels with integrated solar panels,” says de Haese. Kind and sympathetic too: even swallow nests have been thought.
As with the restoration of the monastery, many traces of the renovations are still visible in the church. Together with the original furnishings, they provide the charm that the church still exudes despite decades of emptiness. “We will carefully restore the remains of the plaster, but there will be no additions,” the architect says. The entire restoration should be completed in the summer of 2022.
After that, Mechelen will invest another 3.3 million euros in the furnishing of the church. This file is under preparation. “We intentionally keep the interior sober and limited in order to preserve the beauty of the massive space. It would be a great addition,” says Ships Anciaux. During the transition period from 2023 to 2024, the city wishes to reopen the church as an extension of Het Predeckeren. It is designed in such a way that various cultural, social and cultural activities can be carried out simultaneously.
This church also promises to become a new cultural hotspot. In addition to a place for music and lectures for more than a hundred people, the additional space also allows us to expand our collection for schools,” says Björn Sever (Vld-Groen-m+), a local council member for culture. In addition, there is more space to store recent addresses from the warehouse. Near the library “This way we give our visitors and our books more comfort,” says Siffer.
You can visit theses during the monument open day on Sunday 12th September. Guided tours start every half hour between 10am and 5pm. You have to book for it. Be quick is the message, because the number of tickets is limited.
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