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To proclaim, to instruct and to discipline

The visuality of texts in calvinist churches in the Dutch Republic
PhD ceremony:dr. J. (Jacolien) Wubs
When:October 14, 2021
Supervisors:prof. dr. R.M. Esser, prof. dr. J.E.A. Kroesen
Where:Academy building RUG

The traditional image of the Dutch church interior is that of a whitewashed, serene space; The strong emphasis on the Word after the Reformation resulted in the thorough removal of imagery from the formerly Catholic churches. However, this study of text panels and text paintings in Dutch Calvinist church interiors in the late sixteenth and seventeenth centuries shows that the Word did not completely rule out the visual in Reformed church interiors. In fact, the Word itself was turned into an image, and text decoration became a means in the adaptation of churches for Reformed use. This study provides an overview of the variety of texts placed in churches after the Reformation, ranging from everyday house rules to Bible texts about the Lord's Supper, as the most important sacrament of the Reformed church. It shows how text panels and text paintings served as an alternative to and sometimes as a literal replacement of removed Catholic images. Placed at sites in the church that were particularly important in Reformed liturgy, texts proclaimed Reformed faith and underlined the break with the Catholic past of the church. Text decoration was not unique to Dutch Calvinist churches; this study includes a comparison of forms of text decoration in churches of different protestant denominations around the North Sea. The Reformation is mostly viewed as a break in the history of the church and a cause of major changes. This research adds nuance by pointing to continuity, in the texts, in the visual motifs and in the spatial setting of text decoration in churches.