Flying buttress figurine: Saint James the Greater

copy of sculpture of Apostle James the Greater

The last Apostle

copy of sculpture of Apostle James the GreaterAnother part of the Eusebiuskerk has been completed by us: we have now finished carving all the flying buttress figurines of arc no. 14 and 16, the ones with the musicians and six apostles, for St. Eusebius's Church in Arnhem, the Netherlands. The last figurine in this series was Apostle James the Greater, and I tied it to a pallet last Monday, ready for transport.

James the Greater is known to most people for his place of pilgrimage Santiago de Compostela. He is depicted on St. Eusebius's Church with a hat, a shell and a sword. To me, it was a very nice sculpture to work on, because of all the attributes and structures in it. A coarse beard, a thin hat and sword, big hands, a fur coat, a big nose and a hollow shell.

James as a Pilgrim

Acopy of sculpture of Apostle James while ago I carved his colleague St. James the Lesser in new limestone. Why the shell, hat and sword with the Greater? From what I've read about it, around the year 44 James was beheaded by order of Herod Agrippa in Jerusalem. Around the year 800 legends arose about James, that he would have preached the gospel in the Iberian Peninsula, and that his body was brought to Galicia after his death, where it was buried by his disciples in the place that would later be called Santiago de Compostela. His grave was discovered at some point in the 9th century. In the Middle Ages, there was a lot of money to be made from the miraculous healing power of the relics of saints, so that started a great flow of pilgrims, which continues to this day. James himself is therefore usually depicted as a pilgrim, with hat, staff and shell.

flying buttress no. 16 St. Eusebius's Church, 6 apostles

the old statues from flying buttress no. 16 before disassembly

Only six out of twelve

Only six of the twelve apostles are depicted on the flying buttresses of St. Eusebius's Church. At the time it had been intended to give all twelve apostles a spot on the flying buttresses, but the work was completed at some point, and the last four arches were already decorated: large flower shapes (crockets), dating still from around 1920 and an earlier restoration. These statues date from the 1950s and were made during the restoration of the bombed church. Inside the church the statue of apostle John can still be found, James' younger brother, with a poison cup in hand. It was never installed on the church.

The sculptor's progress

old flying buttress statue of James in tuff, by Eduard van KuilenburgSculptor Eduard van Kuilenburg had taken his own path with this group of sculptures. His work had become less figurative, heavier, maybe become coarser, but had gained in expression. The apostles sit on the arch like massive humps, hardly liberated from the shape of the tuff blocks from which they were made. In some areas you can still clearly see how the sculptor worked: he traced a side view onto the stone and began to carve right away. We noticed it well during the copying process: we had to remove much less material than in, for example, the Seven Sins. The sculptures were still quite close to the surface of the original block.

face of JamesThe heads of the apostles are equally massive: big noses, rough beards and angular faces. But they do give a very strong atmosphere. The expression of an artist who has grown in his work. There were, as I mentioned earlier, complaints from the church council that these statues were too large and massive for the flying buttresses on which they sit. But now that we are working on it, I would almost say that it is rather the fault of the church that it is too small, than that the statues should be too big. Yes alright, they are heavy and coarse, but they are just right in their own way, and they have been worked on with care. That also makes it fun for us to work on the copies.

Deliberate structures

flying buttress figurines as wellThat is very different from when we were carving the invalids a while ago, by George van der Wagt, on the south side of the church. In some of those figurines we still found the machine cut surface of the original stone, and it looked like they were made with some indifference, as if the sculptor had said: 'There you go, another one finished. Next!'. Ugly things without attention to their finish.

Rough-carved is not the same as indifferent. Sometimes a coarse structure has a function for a certain image, and Van Kuilenburg knew that. The pointed chisel for the mantle, the claw chisel for hair, the grater and flat chisel for other parts. Van der Wagt seems to have made everything with just 1 chisel, a flat chisel of 25 mm or 1 inch wide.

What next?

Broken flying buttress statue Fortitudo Seven Virtues, man with lionWe don't have to worry about work for the time being. We recently got confirmation for the last 10 flying buttress figurines as well, namely the Seven Virtues and three blocks that will be placed at the top of the four arches with the crockets: a man with a watering can near a flower, a goat eating a flower, and a two-headed eagle. They are in bad shape, some are missing many parts and all are broken.

Next I have to make a gravestone for my father, which I have been designing in between all other jobs, and I still have some private assignments. We also have the prospect of all kinds of other work, about which I cannot say too much at the moment. And finally, we are not afraid of a quieter period, because then we finally get to make our own work. I have all kinds of ideas for that, and it would be nice to work them out. Facade reliefs with the four cardinal directions, the four Seasons, the four or the five elements, I also have ideas for entire entrances… bring it on!

on to the next flying buttress figurine→ is the blog of Koen van Velzen, sculptor in stone and bronze. Look up my website as well:

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Flying buttress figurine: St. James the Lesser

copy of flying buttress statue of James the Lesser in Muschelkalk limestone

Two Jameses

The next flying buttress figurine of St. Eusebius's Church in Arnhem was one from the series of apostles of arc no. 16. It represents a heavily built man with a club. This could either be Judas Thaddeus, or James the Lesser. He was called the Lesser because he became an apostle later than James the Greater. The other James was, along with his brother the apostle and evangelist John, a son of Zebedee, a fisherman. They were inspecting their nets when Jesus arrived and asked them to become fishers of men.

Brother of the Lord

copy of flying buttress statue of James the Lesser in Muschelkalk limestoneBut James the Lesser was called "brother of the Lord". Then how is that possible? Well, according to the Medieval stories, that everyone knew in those days, the carpenter Joseph had been married before and he had a number of children from that marriage, but his wife had died. He was a widower when the young girl Mary (Miriam) came to live under his protection. She took care of the children, and especially James was very fond of her because he was very young when he lost his mother. Maria was about 14 years old when she came out from the temple protection to live with Joseph. Her father and mother, Joachim and Anna, had miraculously been gifted child in their advanced age and therefore entrusted her to God as a temple maiden. So she was brought up very pure and trained in high spiritual knowledge.

When she was 16 years old, she suddenly turned out to be pregnant and Joseph wanted to distance himself from her, but the angel confided to him that she was carrying a great miracle. He decided to marry her. Mary became the mother of Jesus, and James grew up with him. He was at least seven years older, but was among his most faithful disciples.


copy of flying buttress statue of James the Lesser in Muschelkalk limestoneThe club that the apostle James carries with him shows a different way of thinking that was common in the Middle Ages. Emphasis was placed on the suffering and martyrdom of Jesus and of his apostles and saints, therefore, the club with which he was put to death was given a prominent place in the depictions of James. Now this is not a Medieval statue at all, but made in 1956 by Eduard van Kuilenburg. In the Dutch language book on the sculpture of the Eusebius Church Elisabeth den Hartog and Ronald Glaudemans write that the themes for the sculpture were presented by Arnhem city archivist Mr Schaap. That could explain why Van Kuilenburg gave the saints such traditional attributes.

Traditionally, James the Lesser was sometimes depicted with a fuller's stick instead, a heavy piece of wood that was used to felt wool, because he was supposedly been beaten to death with it. So who else could have become the patron saint of all wool felters other than James? Those inimitable twists of thoughts of those Medieval people though…

Today we would be more interested in the life and works of such an apostle than in his martyrdom. The lurid details and emphasis on martyrdom for the Church are definitely from another time.


on to the next flying buttress figurine→ is the blog of Koen van Velzen, sculptor in stone and bronze. Look up my website as well:

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A small sandstone head for Eusebius

row of 9 heads in the Eusebius Church. In front is a head of a woman with hood
A small head in Udelfanger sandstone

I had a small job in December for St. Eusebius's Church in Arnhem (the Netherlands) again. High in the upper side wall of the south transept are 9 small heads embedded inside the wall. Three of those are old heads, which were made in the Middle Ages, four are from the 50s of the twentieth century, and one head is missing. I was asked to carve …Read the whole article…