Church building

The Grand or Saint Nicholas Church of Brouwershaven

The building – exteriour
The construction of this church was probably started in 1293.

Its nave dates from 1300, its aisles from 1400, and its choir from the end of the 15th century. In 1573, the church got into Protestant hands and Gerardus Pauli was its first regular minister, starting in 1577. From 1608 to 1873, the parish had two benefices.

The first church-tower dated from 1667 and contained three bells. In 1734, the tower was renewed. In the French period it was taken down but rebuild in 1883. In 1932, the tower was enlarged, as it could not hold the bigger of the two bells. The two bells are a small ‘Our Lady-bell’from 1510, and a big one, a gift of Jan van Borsele, from 1604, on which the escutcheons of the Van Borseles, of the Province of Zealand, and of the town of Brouwershaven. A cast of these escutcheons is to be seen in the choir on the North side.

In 1943, the occupants carried the bells off, but they were recovered in an sunken ship in the ‘Ysselmeer'(Lake Ijssel) and hung in the tower again in 1946.

Since the church cannot be heated, no services are held in winter. In 1500, there was a plan for the building of a high tower, but this plan was not carried out. Yet, the side-porch was built at that time.

The church-interiour is 270 ft. 6 inch. long, 93 ft. 5 1/2 inch. wide, and 81 ft 8 1/2 inch. high and contains a splendid oak-beam roofing, which has never been entirely completed. The acoustics are extremely good. In 1779, a partition was made between the choir-department and the preaching-department. This was a gift of The Rev. Westerhout, to whom the poem “Gedachtenis” (“Remembrance”), hanging in the church has been devoted. During the restoration of 1963, this partition was removed resulting in marvellous lighteffects. Guilds had to keep the big windows in repair. The two largest, to either side of the organ, were destroyed in 1836 by a storm and were walled up. During the restoration this situation was maintained.

The organ

The organ was built in 1557 by Hendrik Niehoff of ‘s-Hertogenbosch. The case was sold to the National Museum in Amsterdam in and repurchased in 1900. The original pink colour came into its own again during the restoration in 1968, during which the interior of the organ was largely renewed, though many old pipes were re-used. The back-piece has been finished in 1980.

The little ship in front of the organ dates from 1806 and is a model of a convoyship like the ones that lay in the Brouwershaven roadstead in 1724 for the purpose of accompanying the merchantmen.


The pulpit in rococo-style is from 1773, presented by Hoobius de Krijger, to whom the poem over onde of the doors is dedicated.

His name is mentioned on the sounding board. The Bible on the pulpit dates from 1892, the Bibles on the pews for the Church Council are from 1827 and the ones in the Gentlemen pews are from before 1700. The Communion Table with pews to match in front of the pulpit are from 1600, just like the pews around the pillars. The dark Gentlemen pews are from 1779. The other ones date from the restoration of 1963. The two chandeliers were created in 1644 by Krijn Andries.


In the choir or ‘promenade-church’ once stood the High-Altar, dedicated to St. Peter and St. Paul. In the niches stood the altars of the guilds. Overhead, on the edge of the vault, there are two soundly preserved wooden sculptures, representing St Nicholas and St Jacob Maior, overlooked in the image-breaking period, the so called ‘Beeldenstorm’. A little door leads to the former little ‘bread-house’ with its beautiful cross-vault and paintings. At one time bread was distributed here to the poor. Later on there was a big chimney, where the charcoal was burnt for the foor stoves.

A fine oaken door with iron work and grained arch leads to the mid-sixteenth century vestry. A magnificent tracery vault and a chimney piece with small tiles and carved oak cap from 1650 can be seen here. There are also a few armchairs from that period as well as an oaken trunk and a little filing-cabinet. In 1989 this room was appointed as ‘winter church’because the main church cannot be heated.

The church has a silver baptismal font dating from 1786 and communion-silver from the period between 1679 and 1786, part of which, unfortunately, was stolen on September 30th 1970. All the silver is to be regognized from inscriptions, showing that it is owned by the Reformed Parish of Brouwershaven.

In and around the church there are many ancient tombstones. In the space behind the pulpit, in the direction of the choir, the tombstone of Jacob Cats’mother, and near to it a tombstone of an aunt of his, are to be found. In the choir lies the wonderful stone of the Van Borsele family.

The Flood of 1953
The church suffered a great deal from the great floods of 1953. Its first restoration was ceompleted in 1963. However, its walls were affected by the salt water, making it necessary to treat the outer and inner walls again. In addition, the wood of the roofing was largely replaced since it was higly affected by the spotted wood-boring beetle. This restoration lasted from 1991-1994. After its occupation, Queen Beatrix did the honour of visiting the church.