National Heritage Day at the cathedral

The nave of the cathedral as seen from the choir loft

Yesterday the monumental and historical buildings in the city of Groningen were open to the public, since it was National Heritage Day (although other places organise that today). Among those buildings was the cathedral of St. Joseph. I was involved in the activities as a tour guide: I conducted three 45-minute tours which were pretty well received. Not too bad for a first-timer.

The above photo does not do the attendance justice: all in we welcomed some 380 visitors which, considering that the promotional material for the Heritage Day failed to include our cathedral and its opening times, is not bad at all…

I especially enjoyed the questions and comments from non-Catholics, some of whom were surprised how close the Catholic faith is to their own Protestant Christianity. I think the ubiquitous Biblical reference sprinkled throughout the cathedral may have contributed to that: the nave, for example, features the Ten Commandments, the Creed and the Beatitudes on the walls and pillars, not to mention the Stations of the Cross and depictions from the life of Saint Joseph and the Holy Family.

The opportunity for people who were interested to go on up to the choir loft, where our titular organist Sjoerd Ruisch was playing, was also very popular. Mr. Ruisch enjoyed himself as well, having the chance to explain all about the intricacies of the century-old Maarschalkweerd organ.

Stained glass windows above the organ on the choir loft

The tour I had come up with (essentially on the day before…) was not just a tour of the building, but also a very basic introduction to the Catholic faith. That was not by accident: the appearance and history of a Catholic church is – or should be – dictated by the fact that Jesus Christ is physically present. So I didn’t just discuss architecture and local history, but also various sacraments, the Blessed Virgin and the saints, the practice of receiving Communion and much more like that.