Flying Buttress Figurines: four times Noah's Ark

Theo van Reijns theme of Noah's Ark

There are 96 flying buttress figurines on St. Eusebius's Church in Arnhem (the Netherlands), distributed over 14 flying buttresses. Four of these are filled with animal figures on the theme of Noah's Ark, designed by the Haarlem sculptor Theo van Reijn (and for the most part carved by his artisan sculptor Eduard van Kuilenburg). He crowned each of the flying buttresses with the ark itself, in several episodes of the story of the Great Flood.
The past year I have mostly spent copying 26 of these figurines. It seemed a good moment to show these four arks next to (or underneath) each other. These are the four copies I made in new Muschelkalk limestone.

Noah's ark: a zoo in a boat-copy of the ark

1: All animals have been boarded

In this first image you can see the ark full of animals, ready to depart. It's still on its struts, because Noah's ark was built on dry land and he stowed it full of animals before the rains came.

flying buttress sculpture of Noah's Ark: Noah fleeing the rising waters

2: The water comes up in wild waves and Noah climbs up into the ark

The second image shows how the rains have started and the water is swirling around below the ark. Noah escapes the onrush of the waters.

Noah's ark

3: After forty days of rain Noah is praying for a solution. The dove is ready to leave.

It rained for forty days. Here we see Noah kneeling down to pray in his rowboat. I don't quite understand why Van Reijndepicted a dove with something in its beak here. It was so weathered that it was not clear what it was supposed to depict. I made an olive branch out of it, although the pigeon only carried that in its beak at the second return to Noah's ark.

Noah's ark

4: The pigeon has already landed on the roof, but Noah is still looking for it.

In the fourth scene Noah looks out the window, searching for the dove. The donkey's looking out the window too, but the pigeon is already on the roof.

Noah's ark: new in Muschelkalk limestone, old in Ettringer tuff stone. Tower of St. Eusebius' Church

Noah's ark: new in Muschelkalk limestone, old in Ettringer tuff stone

Another little corbel with its copy next to it. I added some more details. is the blog of Koen van Velzen, sculptor in stone and bronze. Look up my website as well:

Corbel for the Eusebius Tower: a bird-like beast?

Bird beast: a copy of a tufa stone corbel by John Grosman in new Muschelkalk limestone for the Eusebius Tower in Arnhem
One of the last of the 10 corbels for the South- and North side of the tower of the Eusebius Church at 23 meters high was this winged bird-like beast. It sits somewhat cramped in its corner and there spreads its claws and wings. This piece was originally carved in 1954 by John Grosman, who also adorned a pair of flying buttresses with statuettes. I already copied his seven trumpet angels of the Apocalypse earlier; read the report here↑.

Style characteristics

Grosman at the time quickly carved these figurines out of the original tuff, and the chisel strokes can still be recognized from up close. I have not changed their style. Stide and I both agreed: if you'd think it necessary to leave your mark on this work and go about changing things, then you'd violate their original intention, it would detract from the atmosphere of an era and you'll either end up with something completely different, or something that makes no sense at all, ending up being neither this nor that. So with great pleasure I copied this figure pretty closely. A while ago I was able to inspect the whole group on site at the tower and it became clear that these five by Grosman form a coherent ensemble, even though I have no idea of their meaning. Most of the five figurines have a rather triangular, flat face which was carved close to the original surface, and are portrayed with wings.

Legs and wings

This bird beast was slightly damaged. It missed a claw on its right leg and there was some surface damage. Although it still looks okay, it's being replaced now because of this Ettringer Tuff is already showing signs of decay, such as tiny cracks, which will in the coming decades inevitably lead to danger of falling parts. Also, the original is still clearly readable now, so it will be easy to copy faithfully. There are sculptures on the Eusebius Church that are already falling apart now and have some parts missing. This would therefore require that a reconstruction is made before a copy can be cut.

As I said, I copied this bird-like beast reasonably precise, except that I've carved the wings a bit thinner. Muschelkalk can be detailed a bit finer than tuff and is also stronger, so I can carve some things slightly slimmer than its original. In my opinion this doesn't detract from the original intention of the sculpture in any way.

Carving by pointing machine, or CNC milling…

presawing a flying buttress figurine on the copy saw

presawing a flying buttress figurine on the copy saw

There are of course methods to copy this sculpture much more precise. I could accurately copy it with a pointing machine to the millimeter and carve it into new stone. Or I could complete the bird beast with plastiline clay to a mint condition, then have it scanned with a 3D scanner, and then have it milled out of a new block of stone with a CNC five-axis milling machine. It may be clear that those methods, along with the advantage of accuracy, also have a number of disadvantages such as longer delivery time and a much higher price tag. A CNC milling will copy every little dent, so you'd need to prepare each model either to a mint condition or you'll need to keep a wide margin above the final processed surface. These are also costly machines, so this milling work does not come cheap. By the time the scan is processed and the robot and the stone are ready, I've already finished presawing. Besides, no further transport is required.

Therefore my copy saw turns out to be for the flying buttress figurines a perfect compromise: I can accurately and quickly remove a l arge amount of stone, and at low costs. Yet little preparation of the original is needed and I keep just about as much margin as I have set in advance. Unfortunately I can not make good use of this machine for the corbels because these figures are embedded into crisp masonry . I cannot risk damaging this with an overshot saw kerf. For the flying buttres figurines, this risk is practically non-existent, since they need to be cut all around. Hence I carved this bird-like beast and all his other brothers by hand and measured them with the aid of compasses and profile templates.

Two winged cubistic creatures: old tufa stone corbels from 1954 by John Grosman from the Eusebius Tower in Arnhem is the blog of Koen van Velzen, sculptor in stone and bronze. Look up my website as well:

Second visit to the scaffoldings of St. Eusebius's Church

Scaffold Visit at St. Eusebius's Church according flying buttress figurinesI almost forgot, but just a few weeks ago I've been back to the Eusebius Church for a second visit to the scaffolds, to check out the second group of flying buttress figurines on site. The first half was installed last year, and recently the second series of 12 statuettes was installed.

Adjusting the fit

Scaffold Visit at St. Eusebius's Church according flying buttress figurinesThere was still some work at the upper arch images, where blocks of stone merge into the wall of the church. That connection wasn't entirely flush yet, So I was asked if I wanted to adjust the vertical surfaces to fit in with the surrounding work. Scaffold Visit at St. Eusebius's Church according flying buttress figurinesIn Holland we call it something like according here. I had brought along my small compressor and my air hammers and chisels. It was a great opportunity to look how the four flying buttresses with 26 statuettes present themselves now, to soak up the atmosphere and make some pictures.

Very tight

Scaffold Visit at St. Eusebius's Church according flying buttress figurines

Especially the last one with the animals in Noah ark required a lot of attention: everything fit just fine at the top, but down below the stone protruded over 3 centimeters outside the wall face! I have no idea how that could happen, but it was fairly easy to put that right. Working on scaffolding does provide its own challenges: I had to squeeze myself into a small hole to adjust the profile on its underside. Fortunately there was just enough space and everything is now neatly adjusted. It was good weather for a second scaffolding visit, to look around again and admire the view over Arnhem.

Read here all posts on flying buttress statuettes for Eusebius's Church

Links to all the individual figurines:

Flying buttress 5: Razorbill, Elephant, Sea lion, Cape Buffalo, Squirrel, Praying Man, Noah fleeing the rising waters.

Flying buttress 4: A Bear with a honeypot, Monkey in a wig, Noah-caller, despairing Monk, Ark with animals.

Read here↑ the first scaffold visit- is the blog of Koen van Velzen, sculptor in stone and bronze. Look up my website as well:

A visit to the scaffolding of St. Eusebius's Church: Corbels and 14 flying buttress figurines.

A visit to the scaffolding of St. Eusebius's Church

scaffolding visit Eusebius Church with flying buttress figurines

flying buttress no. 6

Last Thursday I visited the Eusebius Church in Arnhem. I had heard that two of the four flying buttresses were installed. For this church I had carved into new limestone 31 copies of the old flying buttress figurines and my colleague Stide also four. Stide has also replaced many larger and smaller corbels and is currently mainly engaged in carving stone masks. …Read the whole article…

The whole zoo in his boat (flying buttress figurine)

Coarse-grained zoo

A whole zoo in a boat. The old tuffstone flying buttress figurine

This week I had an Ark on my hands again. This is the last flying buttress figurine that was designed by Theo van Reijn and probably carved by Eduard van Kuilenburg, in 1953 or ’54. But it's weathered down very much. When it was in my yard, I had to take a good look. I knew it was supposed to be an ark, but I couldn't determine which animals were in it. I thought …Read the whole article…

A monkey in a wig (flying buttress figurine)

flying buttress figurine Monkey, Copying from tuffstone into Muschelkalk

copying the Monkey

The old Monkey from tuffstone

One of the nicest flying buttress figurines from the series 'Noah's Ark’ by Theo van Reijn was now ready to be copied: a Monkey. The creature has an endearing belly, skinny legs and a Big Smile on its snout. And a wig.

That my sawing machine after all of the welding- and tinkering can now cut so accurately is also clearly visible in the pre-cut block. It saves quite a bit …Read the whole article…

A Bear with a honeypot (flying buttress figurine)

The bear that didn't look like a bear

flying buttress statuette of bear with honeypot - old original tuff

flying buttress statuette bear with honey -new copy in muschelkalk limestone

And then the bear came with its long snout and blew out… no, he ate all the honey. This 'bear’ was the next flying buttress figurine for St. Eusebius's Church in Arnhem which was to be copied into new stone. Only you have to look very good …Read the whole article…

The Man calling Noah (flying buttress figurine)

copying flying buttress figurine The Noachroeper/ Man calling Noah from St. Eusebius's Church in Arnhem

Copying The Noachroeper/Man Calling Noah


old tuff flying buttress statuette of Man calling Noah from St. Eusebius's Church in Arnhem.

The tuffstone original of the Man Calling Noah

The next flying buttress figurine for St. Eusebius's Church in Arnhem is one of the more famous ones: The Man calling Noah. It's a bald little guy bending over in a highly flexible position and shouting to someone down below. Maybe he shouts that Noah should get along with his boat because the waters are rising? In any case, the sculpture was made with a lot of humor and it is immediately clear what this guy is doing. He has long pants without belt, and is bare-chested. …Read the whole article…

A Desperate Monk, Reading (flying buttress figurine)

A Desperate Monk, Reading, Copying the statues

copying the Monk


The next flying buttress statue in the series for St. Eusebius's Church was a man in a monk's habit, reading a book and desperately grasping his forehead. The old tuffstone sculpture was pretty heavily weathered at the surface, but the stone underneath was still fairly sound. However, no warranty can be given that …Read the whole article…

A Long-legged Squirrel (flying buttress figurine)

beeldhouwerij van Velzen around Christmas 2017

My sculptor's workshop around Christmas

The first thing I often take on in these figurines is the profiled stonemasonry parts at the bottom

old tuff flying buttress figurine of a Squirrel

old Squirrel, tuff stone

The last flying buttress figurine from flying buttress no. 5 of St. Eusebius's Church in Arnhem was this Squirrel. In these past few weeks I have presawn all the remaining blocks of stone for flying buttresses nos. 5 and 4 on my machine, so now I can start carving all the remaining figurines. …Read the whole article…