Between the canalside buildings on Singel, not far from Spui, are two striking slender towers. These are the towers of the Sint Franciscus Xaveriuskerk, or de Krijtberg. This neo-Gothic church succeeded a clandestine church that was established here in 1654 in three buildings, the largest of which was called ‘De Crythberg’. The two adjacent buildings were intended as a hiding place in the event of problems in this secret Catholic church, which had been banned, yet tolerated, since the Alteration. In 1835 the church building was enlarged and the original Crythberg demolished. The existing church was built between 1881 and 1883, to a design by the architect Alfred Tepe.
Alfred Tepe is regarded as the most important Dutch neo-Gothic architect after P.J.H. Cuypers. Tepe was born in Amsterdam of German parents. He went to Berlin to study architecture at the Bauakademie, after which he worked for the architect Vincenz Statz in Cologne. There he worked on the restoration and completion of Cologne Cathedral. When Tepe returned to the Netherlands several years later, he incorporated his experience in Germany in the many churches he built, most of which were in the then archbishopric of Utrecht. His neo-Gothic style remained virtually unchanged throughout his career, inspired by the ideology of the Sint Bernulphusgilde, a gild for Catholic craftsmen, architects and clerics, of which he was a member. Between 1871 and 1905, Tepe built some seventy churches.
As with his earlier design for a church in Utrecht, Sint Willibrorduskerk, the Krijtberg had to be inserted on a small plot, in this case in between canal buildings. As a result, the side aisles are just wide enough for processions and the windows are positioned as high as possible in order to maximize the penetration of daylight. The church is also provided with galleries. The interior is notable in particular, however, for its colour, which was applied in two phases. In the first phase, at the end of the nineteenth century, the sculptor Friedrich Wilhelm Mengelberg – like Tepe a member of the Sint Bernulphusgilde – was largely responsible for the gold, green, red and black in the interior, while Cuypers’ studio designed the floor, the pulpit, the Joseph Altar and the confessional boxes. In 1927, Hans Mengelberg’s interior design firm added a second colour scheme, with green, blue, yellow, violet, brown and sepia the dominant colours. (ARCAM/HD)