Corbels for St Stephen's Church

old weathered consoles and crockets

the wires are against the pigeons

After another period filled with carving all kinds of sculpture for third parties, my colleague Stide Vos and I got to carve a whole batch of sculpted ornaments for St. Stephen's Church in Nijmegen in Nijmegen. I took up the corbels. You often find these corbels in the facades of Gothic churches; they are the pedestals on which the statues of Saints were usually placed. In this case it is from the southern portal, an entrance way. These were traditionally the most richly carved portions of the church, full of ornaments and statues.

console with two dogs in sandstone

newlyweds with jug, corbel  in portlandstonetwo consoles for St. John's Cathedral, 's-Hertogenbosch Consoles or corbels are really just protruding blocks on which a statue can be placed. In the typical Gothic style, of course, such a block would extensively be carved with leaf motifs, and here is no different. I have carved some of these before with animal figures, prophets, angels, or with professions such as stone mason, building master and so on.

But in this case, there were never put any statues on the corbels, and they remained bare . This façade was rebuilt in the 1950s in Ettringer Tuff, and as I so often have seen before Ettringer tuff is just not suitable for fine sculpture . Apparently this church too had been significantly damaged in the war and the choice for this tuff was just one of necessity: in Germany as well, there was great demand for good tuff and the quarries could simply not keep up. Only the lesser tuff was affordable or available for the Netherlands .

So we found a highly weathered facade when we came to inspect. All lying crockets were changed into dripping candles, of the trefoils that hung on the inside of the pointed arch all the protruding parts were already cut off as a precaution, and a number of capitals had begun to deteriorate as well.

precarving the leaves on a corbel in tuff

precarving the leaves on a corbel in tuff

Stide is now working on new crockets and I took on the corbels. First I carved the profiled parts, the stone masonry bits, so it's now for the ornamental parts. They prove quite nice to carve, because the leaf shapes have a nice line of tension. The new sculpture will also be tuff, but it is Weiberner tuff this time. That is a bit finer and should last longer. But as a precaution the portal will get a roof, in order to slow down the weathering strongly that way.

corbel in tufa, with hailstones

it's hailing, it's hailing…

In the meantime it's still winter, and hail, snow- and rain showers come along. But as long as it is not too windy it is doable. The first three weeks of the winter I always feel a little cold, then the inner heater comes on and it doesn't matter anymore. Only when carving fine details at -10 doesn't work, that really needs be done inside. Anyway, then the air equipment freezes as well and everything becomes harder, smoething you shouldn't really want. Still, this is a beautiful time of year, and I'll take the cold because I love to work outside in the fresh air!

→ Read more… is the blog of Koen van Velzen, sculptor in stone and bronze. Look up my website as well:

One response to “Corbels for St Stephen's Church

  1. Koos van Bockxmeer wrote:

    What a beautiful job again. Congratulations to the way you make your work accessible. Wonderful to see, your great craftsmanship. Duly noted this time!!! Greetings, Koos and Kniltje.

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