Ornaments in basaltic lava for the Utrecht Dom Cathedral

large crockets in basaltic lava for the cathedral of Utrecht, ready for transportThese last months were a period when we were mainly busy carving stone ornaments. After all the carving of crockets for finials of St. Eusebius's Church in Arnhem we went straight ahead with these large crockets in basalt lava for the Utrecht Cathedral. During my vacation the blocks had arrived and a first example was approved by the assessment committee.

French basalt lava

completed and precut crocket in Volvic basalt lavaVolvic Basaltlava originates from near the French village of Volvic in the Puy de Dome, in the Auvergne. This village is known for the eponymous mineral water, but its stone has gathered its own fame as well. Basaltic lava is tremendously resistant to weathering, and this kind in particular is also suited for carving, such as, for example, can be seen at the Cathedral of Clermont-Ferrand. It can all appear to be a bit grey and dull when it is used all over a building, but when used sparingly and mixed in with other stonework, it can be a valuable addition. Unlike for example Peperino Duro, Volvic will remain well defined under all kinds of weather- and lighting conditions, whereas Peperino will soon appear a vague gray mass, and the play of shapes becomes unreadable. Even when it rains the lines are still clearly visible in Volvic. It was widely used, for example, in the last restoration of Our Lady's Tower in Amersfoort as a replacement of sandstone, even for the sculptural parts. This stone actually blends in very well with the gray tones of weathered Bentheimer sandstone.

completed crocets in Volvic basaltic lava, wet by rain

even during wet weather these crockets stand out clearly

There are more types of basalt lava, like Niedermendiger and Mayener basaltic lava, which for centuries has been used for grindstones, because of their durability, hardness and sharpness. To me, these are not nice stones to carve in; one needs to really work hard to make something and it all remains very dark. That is why, in this case, I submitted a proposal to carve these ornaments in Volvic, in particular because a few meters below them the same stone is used on the same walls of the Dom Church. Alternatives for this were Peperino and sandstone. However sandstone is more vulnerable than Volvic.

Advantages- and disadvantages

rough carving a large crocket in Volvic basalt lavaAs mentioned, Volvic is well suited for carving. It can even be used for enameling, or rather glazes, provided it's first covered in a thin layer of clay. This process is mainly suited for large tile panels without seams. Drawbacks are that those can't be made much thicker than 3 to at the most 5 cms, and there will always be a risk that the stone will snap in the oven. However, I would like to carve a relief one day and then have it glazed to create a vivid and colorful display.

The material will always remain unslippery and that's one of the reasons that basalt lava is often used for steps and stairs. It will weather very slowly. But it is a lava rock, containing many small gas bubbles. These bubbles may occur in lines, along which the stone could break during processing and also after cutting when on the pallet it could still spontaneously break along an invisible tension line . The stone is layered and carves a lot easier in one direction than in the other. Like most natural stone, Volvic basalt lava also comes in various shades of colour, from gray to deep anthracite, from nearly black, to brownish purple and almost burgundy-like brown.

Four on the same page

The four of us have worked on this assignment. Stide has made four of them, I did five, Jelle made two more, and Serge accounted for the lion's share and carved the remaining nine. Working together in such a group, the individual differences between the individual sculptors working are bound to show, for after all, we are not machines. Yet there was a great partnership and close cooperation among us. For instance, on two occasions the three of us have been working on one clay model, all at the same time , during which we noticed to our own surprise how much consensus there was on the shapes that we were pursuing and how the tension needs to flow within the leaves. Stide had initially made a clay model, which we adjusted together during the first visit of the committee, and Serge's first piece was carved after that model.

Ten left and ten right

Old photograph from 1960 ofthe left transept of Utrecht Cathedral, without any crockets

the facade of the transept, here without any crockets, around 1960

These twenty large crockets will come on top of the left transept, where the wall ends and the eaves begin. So there are ten left hand and ten right hand crockets. If you stand between the Dom Tower and the cathedral and you walk a little to the left, you will just be able to see them. And perhaps even from the terraces next to the church.

These crockets in basalt lava will replace twenty crockets that were installed in the 1980s. These were casts, but they did not survive the last thirty years very well, so they already need to be replaced now. Fortunately, this time was chosen for graceful ornaments in a much more robust stone, so we can assume that these crockets will adorn the church for much longer.

Beeldhouwerijblog.nl is the blog of Koen van Velzen, sculptor in stone and bronze. Look up my website as well: beeldhouwerijvanvelzen.nl

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Finials for St. Eusebius's Church-2: crockets!

crockets carved for St. Eusebius's Church in Arnhem, the Netherlands

As I already explained in in an earlier blog post I spent my days before the summer holidays carving crockets on finial parts for St. Eusebius's Church in Arnhem (the Netherlands).

And my colleagues Stide Vos, Serge van Druten and Jelle Steendam were also contributing to this project. I have not seen how these finials are installed now, but I have every confidence that they're looking great.


Shaft piece with crockets for St. Eusebius's Church. Below is an ornament with a surprise in it

For a while, it was still a bit uncertain whether it would all be finished on time. The stonemasons always make the basic work, i.e. all the geometric parts of the finials. We take care of the ornamental parts (the crockets), then it's all sent to the church, where the contractor is responsible for the installation. It was at that time very busy at the church yard, because …Read the whole article…

Looking back: the South Chapel of the Utrecht Cathedral

tufa crockets on the south chapel of the Dom cathedral in Utrecht

Tufa crockets for the southern chapel

After a visit to the Utrecht Dom Tower for a quote, I took the time to shoot a few pictures of our recently completed work on the Dom cathedral. To be precise, the 3 facades of the South Chapel on the Pandhof side.

If you'll remember: a few months ago we had carved 29 large tuff stone crockets for the pointed arches of the cathedral in Utrecht. Now Serge and Stide did carve the majority of the flowers, but …Read the whole article…

Finials for St. Eusebius's Church

We're currently carving parts of pinnacles by the cartload. They are all destined for St. Eusebius's Church in Arnhem (the Netherlands). Below are some pictures of work I've made this far. In the picture above you can see a number of blocks ready for transport: successively, an old tuffstone block, a block of red sandstone from my hand, one by Stide and one by Jelle, and finally …Read the whole article…

Finials and side crockets, for Eusebius and Dom Church

finials in Muschelkalk for St. Eusebius's ChurchFinials for St. Eusebius's Church

We are working on the completion of three projects: the first half of St. Eusebius's Church in Arnhem (the Netherlands) is almost finished, the last pieces of St. John's Cathedral are completed, and the last crockets for the South Chapel of the Utrecht cathedral are packed and ready for shipping as well. The finials in the above picture are destined for the south side of St. Eusebius's Church. These are fairly simple crockets in French Massangis-limestone, with a post-war era design, but they will contour well with their clean lines. There are only a few of those, and it's indent work: …Read the whole article…

Ornaments for Utrecht's Domkerk and St John's Cathedral 2


As you may perhaps remember: I last year I carved ornaments a few times and even made some stonemasonry work for St. John's Cathedral in 's-Hertogenbosch.

The blog posts can be found under the following headings: Stonemasonry work and ornaments for St. John's Cathedral, Finally another update! and Ornamental work for the Utrecht Dom Church and St. John's.

I recently got a new batch of ornamental work in the yard again, including another identical finial block for the same buttress finial of St. John's Cathedral. The first block I carved in its entirety myself, including the stonemasonry parts. The second block was pre-processed by …Read the whole article…

Year review of 2018

Year review of 2018

It seemed nice to sum up this year of sculpting in some words and pictures. Not in chronological order, because my work sometimes jumps from one thing to another, for often suddenly urgent commissions come in between. I like it that way too, I love things being a bit unpredictable! But only when there's not too much pressure on things.

Finishing flying buttresses 4, 5, 6 and 7

Gallery -click on a photo to see it larger-

Last year I spent a long time making flying buttress figurines for the north side of St. Eusebius's Church in Arnhem. Early January that job was nearly done; I only had to make a Monk, a Bear, a man calling Noah, a Monkey and a Ark with animals this summer. It was the last series of the four flying buttresses themed around Noah's Ark.

Calamities and Repairs

…Read the whole article…

Ornamental work for the Utrecht Dom Church and St. John's

A suspended ornament for a canopy of St. John's

Ornamental work in Udelfanger sandstone: suspended ornament for a canopy from St. John's Cathedral

I'll still need to adjust the profiled parts later

It was an interesting last week of the year. I first went to St. John's Cathedral in Den Bosch, where I needed to carve some ornamental parts. It was a ‘suspended ornament’ from a canopy. The old one had weathered down and I was asked to make a new one. But the scaffolders above my head were already busy breaking down the scaffolds, so after taking some measurements I went back to Achterveld again with the workpiece to finish it there. I had actually already done this ornament long before that, but when I …Read the whole article…

Stonemasonry work and ornaments for St. John's Cathedral


sandstone base block for finialJust like a few years ago, I'm working on some parts for St John's Cathedral in Den Bosch. At the time I carved, among other pieces, a canopy in my shop this year. This time I made a base block for a finial in the beginning. This is the lower part of …Read the whole article…

Side crockets: Gothic ornaments for the Utrecht Cathedral

Reconstruction of gothic ornaments

weathered old crockets in Ettringer tuff at the cathedral in Utrecht

weathered old crocket in Ettringer tuffstone

The Cathedral in Utrecht is partly covered in scaffolding at the moment. Specifically a large part of its stonework is being overhauled, and part of this project are 16 large tuffstone crockets, or Gothic leaf shapes adorning the frames of the lancet windows. After several centuries of copying there was not much left of their original shape. That was reason enough …Read the whole article…