Church of Heelsum

The State-Reformed Church of Heelsum (in the Eastern part of The Netherlands) was built in the years 1517-1519. Kolonel Leonhard van Dorp (in my childhood my next-door neighbor), retired chamberlain of H. M. Queen Juliana, was so kind as to give me a picture, draw the ground plan and to dig up some particulars of its history in the files of the church.

Heelsum was first a small settlement of the manor of Doorwerth nowadays it is part of the town Renkum.

The church is built on a hill amidst the woods of the region. In 1859 a second part was added and the first part restored.

To reach the front door, the churchgoers have to climb long stairs with steps of 1.25 meter long.

In an old document it says, “In the year of our Lord 1517 Squire Frederick of Voorst, Seigneur of Doorwerth, laid here in Heelsum the first stone, at Tuesday before St. Geertruiden.” And, “In the year of our Lord 1519 pastor Willem van Kerckhoff laid the first slate here above the high altar.”

The walls have been laid of bricks of 28x13x6 centimeters. The nave of the church has walls with four vaulted arches, the corners made of tuff. The tower is on the inside 1.5Ox2.20 meters—very simple.

In 1580 the Reformation reached Heelsum but Seigneur Johan Schellard of Doorwerth refused to send the Roman-Catholic pastor Amt Hendrikx away. The Reformed Classis Overveluwe protested repeatedly. The Classis Arnhem decided to send Rev. Georgius Heshusius of Renkum to Heelsum. The Seigneur of Doorwerth remained angry. The case came before the Court of Arnhem, which decided that Rev. Heshusius indeed would be minister of the Reformed Church of Heelsum; that was in 1635.

In the meantime, the maintenance of the church was neglected, but the church had no money available. In 1656 it became possible to organize restoration. The tower became higher and got another shape. The buttresses were renovated. In 1667 Duke Albrecht van Aldenbmg became Seigneur of Doorwerth. He was Reformed and provided money for the maintenance of the church. During the 18th and 19th century Heelsum and Renkum had each a congregation, but worked together when a new minister had to be called.

In 1850 the church in Heelsum had a congregation of 300 members. The supervision was in the hands of the dowager Baron van Brakel and she decided to enlarge the church building. Windows of cast iron, the chancel closed off by a high screen and a new vestry with separate entry.

In 1919 the church became property of the Society “Hendrick de Keyser” in Amsterdam, which took care of the building. During the Second World War the church became severely damaged. The Society took care of the restoration, but that work was completed by the independent congregation of Heelsum in 1952. In 1978 the State-Reformed church got four stained glass windows made and installed, in 1993 followed by two more. ❖