A large gargoyle for the Dom Tower

Three Gargoyles in Portlandstone

large crocket for the Dom Tower of Utrecht in new Portland stoneWe have now been carving a lot of large finials, crockets and ornaments for the Utrecht Dom Tower. At the top of the tower, at about a hundred meters height, a ring of gargoyles are installed to spit out the rainwater that falls on the roof and the balustrade. At the end of last year we received three of these old limestone gargoyles: an eagle, a stone-cutting devil and a monster that sits on another devil's shoulders. We divided these three gargoyles among the three of us: colleague Serge got the eagle, Jelle got the stonemason and I would make the last one, all three from new blocks of Portlandstone. We just had to wait a little longer for the third gargoyle, because it hadn't arrived yet. If only I'd known what I'd gotten myself into!

ornaments for the Dom Tower in Utrecht

It doesn't fit!

gargoyle 'stone-cutting devil' is sawn from a block of new stone

Jelle's stone-cutting devil on the contour saw

Serge immediately started cutting out the eagle on the contour saw, then Jelle got to work. But when "my own"’ gargoyle arrived, it turned out that this one was 2 metres 60 tall, and I can only handle 195 cm on my contour sawing machine. So it became clear that I had to measure and copy this gargoyle by hand from the block of stone. The other two were just long enough to fit into the machine.

Copying technique

Koen van Velzen copies gargoyle for the Dom Tower in new stoneIf it all doesn't fit in the machine, it has to be done by hand. In this case I put the two pieces on top of each other, to simplify all measuring work. You can then very quickly see whether the shapes match, because they are put so close to each other. With compasses and contour templates it's easy to find the main shapes.

copying the gargoyle 2,6 m in steenOnce the three most important sides were defined, including the stonemasonry parts of the gutter on top of the gargoyle and the hole through the monster's mouth, I put the two blocks upright. And then it turned out that there was also another demon hiding at the bottom. But with each block on its own turntable I could easily compare and copy again, so that in the end a faithful copy emerged.

Video: inspection at the sculptor's studio

In November 2020 local broadcaster RTV Utrecht visited us for a video report of our work on the ornaments. The restoration committee came to judge our first results.

There is an article on the RTV-Utrecht website with a short report (see here the link↑), but if you wait until everything is loaded, the video will also appear, on which we can bee seen from minute 4:50 in the studio. Because I took this job together with my colleagues Serge van Druten and Jelle Steendam, can they also be seen in this video. By the way, the whole video is worth watching.

Video: Jelle is working on a gargoyle

In the meantime, Jelle was working on his own gargoyle, a stone-cutting demon. I made a short video of it.


Gallery: work progress on the two gargoyles

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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Scaffolding visit: last time Eusebius Church

The last time on the scaffolding

All joys will eventually come to an end, and so did our work on the Eusebius Church in Arnhem, the Netherlands.. Luckily we had to go there one more time to make some adjustments. There were four connections of flying buttress statues to the church that still needed to be carved to fit at the very end. That means that it all didn't exactly match the old parts, and that we had to adjust the protruding bits. In addition, we had deliberately left parts unfinished in a number of places because we could only properly see on site how it would connect to other parts.. This was about the upper flying buttress statues of arch nr 23, with the Seven Virtues, from arch no. 20, on which a man (or woman?) wcould be seen with a watering can, from arch no. 19, with my Goat nibbling on a crocket, and finally of arch no. 17/18, on which my Two-Headed Eagle defiantly sat wide-legged. The first two were carved and therefore also adjusted by Jelle. The other two were adjusted by Tim and myself.

Drip ledges

At the top of each of these four flying buttress statues sat a horizontal ledge. We carved all four of them on the spot, because this gives the contractor's masons more leeway when installing the sculptures. You'll need to adjust it to the inclination and the transverse direction of the arc, to the vertical wall plane of the church and to the right height above the arch. In such a case, every part that is already defined is adding a level of difficulty. That's why it's more convenient to, as I reported in the blog article about the Two-Headed Eagle a while ago, not to tailor a number of things yet and not to finish carve them until they're on the church. That was also the reason that we, especially on the eagle,, whicho stands on two flying buttresses at the same time, needed to do a lot of work on the spot, but we had already counted on that.

Eduard van Kuilenburg

sculptor Eduard van Kuilenburg at work on the Eusebius Church between 1950 and 1960The Arch with the Seven Virtues is right next to the Seven Sins. They were also carved in the same style by sculptor Eduard van Kuilenburg. Van Kuilenburg was a passionate sculptor, who put all his passion into this church. He died shortly after completing his work on this church. I recently got his biography, from which it can be concluded that shortly after the war he was severely judged on a choice he made in despair and out of self-preservation. I suspect he repressed his war trauma with sculpting. Sometimes he also climbed over the fence on Saturday to continue working, on his own. Anyway, a piercing story of struggle and suffering, that you can read here (in Dutch only, sorry) by clicking on his photo.

The Seven Virtues

The figurines of the group with the seven virtues are again predominantly ladies. We see a woman with a dog (temperantia-temperance, ), a woman with a rooster (justitia-vigilance), a man with a lion (fortitude), a woman with a child and a heart (caritas-love), a man and woman with an anchor (spes-hope), a woman with a cross (fides-faith) and a woman with a lantern and a book (prudentia-wisdom). Van Kuilenburg has played with textures, poses and hairstyles, and though we've sharpened up a bit here and there, we actually mostly copied the sculptures just as they were.

From the figurines of Spes, Hope, I forgot to take pictures beforehand, so I couldn't dedicate an article to it either. So now you can find it here below. You can also find the couple below, in the gallery.


-click on a small picture below to open the gallery-

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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Our very last flying buttress figurine!

Flying buttress figurine Fides, the Faith. Arch with the Seven Virtues, Eusebius Church Arnhem

The Faith

The very last

Four flying buttresses on the north side

Well honestly I hope it's not the very last ever, but we are finished and done at the Eusebius Church in Arnhem. After having copied 83 flying buttress figurines the job's over, unfortunately.

There were actually still 13 more to go, but those sculptures are to be replaced by a modern work of art by Arno Coenen. New decorations, inspired by the existing flying buttress images. The old figurines apparently were too weathered to save.

So we recently completed the last three figurines: Jelle made man with a watering can, I got to carve the two-headed eagle and Stide would be the one to finish the last statue from arc no. 23 out of new limestone, The Faith. One of the Seven Virtues. But because Stide is currently very busy with other things, he didn't get around to it anymore and I got to finish this one. It depicts a woman with a wavy hairstyle and a cross in her hand.

Overview and retrospect

Sculpture The Night by Eduard van Kuilenburg- new copy in Muschelkalk limestone

Corbel Stone of The Night

What sculptures have we been carving for the Eusebius Church over the past seven years now? Actually too much to mention. If you click on the following link you can find all the sculptures I got to carve for the Eusebius Church, including the over 50 flying buttress figurines I got my hands on. But Stide has also copied all kinds of sculptures from its tower for years and carved eight flying buttress statues, and since 2018 Jelle has also been closely involved and has, among other things, copied 24 flying buttress statues and made ornaments on pinnacles.

A bit of an acquired taste

The Arch with Six Apostles

It was a beautiful assignment. At first I wrinkled my nose a bit at the sculptures of the Eusebius Church. It all stemmed from after the war and was very expressively carved in a coarse tuffstone. But I needed to get to know it a bit before the appreciation came. I was used to the particularly detailed sculptures from earlier periods, such as those I saw from, for example, St John's Cathedral in Den Bosch, The Netherlands, or from the castles of Twickel and Cannenburgh. But this directly carved work has conquered a place in my heart, especially after we copied the Seven Sins and the Apostles in later years.

Educational project

flying buttresses with the apostles and musicians

Apostles and musicians

We immediately dived into carving other sculptural and ornamental work again, that's just how it goes, but i will miss these flying buttress figurines. Of course it has also guaranteed us a stable income for years. But most importantly, we enjoyed working on it so much, and it also taught me a lot about composition and storytelling. Because that's one thing that these flying buttress figurines evoke: we've often had conversations about what moved the original sculptor to represent a theme in a certain way, about the composition of the entire group of sculptures together, about attributes and themes and how we would have tackled this ourselves if we had been asked that question.

Gallery: Fides, The Faith

-click on a picture to open the gallery-

flying buttresses with the seven sins

Gallery: (nearly) All flying buttress statues I made for the Eusebius Church

-click on a picture to open the gallery-

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

Follow me on Instagram↑
and Twitter↑
and on YouTube↑