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 to request a reconstruction of their original shape. My colleagues Stide Vos and Serge van Druten have remodeled those crockets and with four sculptors we started sculpting the sixteen flowers in new Weiberner tufa.

Incidentally, just like with the Eusebius Church in Arnhem and St. John's Cathedral in Den Bosch, a captivating, weighty tome recently appeared about the sculptural work of the Utrecht Cathedral: "The Dom Cathedral in Utrecht. Construction Sculpture and building history 1250-1550’.

Weathered tuff

facade of the Dom Cathedral in Utrecht with the old crockets

One of the facades of the cathedral being restored

Not the design, however, prompted their replacement, but the condition of the stone elements. The original flowers were carved somewhere in the middle of the last century, in the infamous Ettringer tuff stone, and they began to crack and lose parts. Everywhere in the Netherlands constructive sculptural works and stonemasonry parts from Ettringer tuff are being replaced for this reason. On this blog I previously wrote an extensive story about the background of these restorations.

Stides model

copying crockets in tuff for Domkerk Utrecht

Stides model and my start in new stone

copying crockets in tuff for Domkerk Utrecht


copying crockets in tuff for Domkerk Utrecht

new large crocket in Weiberner tuff

Stide had sculpted a clay model for some of these crockets, and carved this mainly along with Serge in new tuff. Of these sixteen I've only carved one, because meanwhile a whole lot of work for the Eusebius Church in Arnhem had arrived as well: I had at one point as many as fifty large new stone blocks in my yard. More on that in later articles on this blog. is the blog of Koen van Velzen, sculptor in stone and bronze. Look up my website as well:

Crockets and finials for Aachen Cathedral

Two new finials for the Aachen Cathedral in Irish bluestone

For Aachen Cathedral some pinnacles had to be replaced. The old ones were worn and had cracked because of rusting iron and because the layering of the stone was not properly applied. The deposition direction of the stone should preferably be processed horizontal, otherwise there is a risk that a long vertical slice breaks off. In this case, they applied it vertically.

The material for these pinnacles is Irish bluestone. It is virtually the same material as the more famous Belgian bluestone, but it is a bit more evenly toned (some would say more boring) and easier to work in: it is slightly less hard and there's less tool wear because it contains less silica.

Cutting work

old and new block of stone for Aachen Cathedral

old finial and new block of stone

rough block of stone for Aachen Cathedral

using the chainsaw can speed up the work

I got supplied with the old model and new blocks of Irish bluestone (Kilkenny limestone). The four crockets of the finial are not connected to each other in the middle. With an angle grinder, I can not cut all the way down to the shaft, but with a chainsaw it's no problem. This speeds up the carving significantly! Of course, a large stonesaw machine could also fix this, but I don't own one. For firmness I could even leave part of it still attached, so that the stone wouldn't break too easily.

Shaping the forms

precutting the finial for Aachen Cathedral

precutting and carving the rough shape. With the chainsaw I can cut right up to the shaft

Finials are essentially the same as crockets. A gothic pinnacle contains from bottom to top a few rows of leaf shaped ornaments (the crockets), which are usually crowned with more intricate leaf shapes which are opposed to each other in a cross shape (the finial).

These crockets and finials of Aachen Cathedral are likely postwar copies. They were certainly not carved all that exciting at the time. I have, without deviating much, applied slightly more tension in their shape. The overall shapes of the finial are all located within the same plane. That makes it easy to quickly precut these flowers in the beginning.

crockets of irish bluestone for the Aachen Cathedral

in the background the old crockets, the new in front

The simple water leaf crockets I carved a bit deeper, and made the outlines a bit more graceful and sharper (see below). In 1993 I first learned to carve crockets and finials, and in the past 25 years I've made a lot of these, but not often in bluestone before. Because Irish bluestone or Kilkenny limestone, is, as its Dutch name denotes, a relatively hard stone, it is natural that the shapes are kept so simple. But even the simplest of water leaf crockets has its own charm, and it is essential that its shape keeps the tension and that after generations of copies to copy we're not just left with a vague sort of shape. That still makes it somewhat interesting for me to carve: the search for a beautiful shape and its tension.

It is intended to replace many more pinnacles from Aachen Cathedral in the future. is the blog of Koen van Velzen, sculptor in stone and bronze. Look up my website as well:

The final pinnacle for St. Cunera's tower

Last pinnacle for St. Cunera's tower. tuffstone block of Pinnacle of Cunera's tower

old weathered pinnacle block

← to the first report of this restoration

The restoration of St. Cunera's tower in Rhenen is nearing its end. My colleague Jan Tolboom from Leusden had taken on the commission to supply all of the ornaments for this project, namely eight large pinnacles and some crockets. …Read the whole article…

Pinnacle for a flying buttress of St. Cunera's tower

Ornaments Cuneratoren Rhenen1

the lower block of the pinnacle

Currently, St. Cunera's tower in Rhenen, the Netherlands, is being restored. Most of the old Tuff stone blocks are being replaced by Muschelkalk . I carved a number of ornaments on some profiled blocks, for (and in cooperation with) my colleague Jan Tolboom. …Read the whole article…

Baldachin finished

Canopy for the St. John's Cathedral in 's-Hertogenbosch in Udelfanger sandstone

ornaments on a canopy for the St. John's Cathedral in's-Hertogenbosch in Udelfanger sandstone

The baldachin for St. John's Cathedral in Den Bosch is ready. The stonemasonry was made by Mike Slotboom of Slotboom Steenhouwers in Winterswijk; I carved the ornaments on this piece. The trickiest of these were the hanging parts on the front, the so-called suspended flowers. …Read the whole article…

A baldachin for St. John's Cathedral

Where the ornaments should go are now still cubes

the stonemason has done a great job. Where the ornaments should go are now still cubes

-to the first post about this restoration-

While I'm waiting for the stone for the Falcon from Franeker to arrive, the other work, in the meantime, just goes on. Right now I'm working on a sandstone baldachin for St. John's Cathedral in 's-Hertogenbosch. A baldachin is a type of canopy under which the statue of a saint is supposed to stand. …Read the whole article…

South Portal of St. Stephen's Church: scaffolding removed

20 trefoils, 20 crockets, 7 consoles and three capitals of the southern portal of the Stevenskerk

The South Portal of St. Stephen's Church has now gotten its scaffolding removed, and it's become a real sight to behold. …Read the whole article…

Placing the side crockets

new crockets placed on south portal Stevens church in Nijmegen

the new side crockets are very close to the new consoles, but that was just the same in the old situation. Far left you can see a small piece of new trefoils

← to the first post about this project

The 100th post on this blog has been reached, and today we had (my colleague Stide and I) had another milestone as well: the mounting work on St. Stephen's Church in Nijmegen is nearly done. Today the mounting of the side crockets got almost finished. …Read the whole article…