Translation: M. van den Heuvel
In the hamlet of Verrenbest (broadly speaking the present-day old centre of Best) in about the year 775 a man was born, who was to become the very first “homegrown” Dutch saint: Saint Odulphus.
The Frank Odulphus was born in Best on the very site, where throughout the ages the parishchurch has been situated. Herewith the St. Odulphuschurch is the only church in the Netherlands, which is situated on the birthsoil of a saint.
Odulphus departed from Best to the neighbouring village of Oirschot, where he had his education for the priesthood and after his ordination he stayed on in Oirschot at the urgent request of his parents. After Odulphus had worked in Oirschot for a short time, he went to Utrecht and, under the guidance of bishop Frederik, applied himself to the conversion of the Frisians.
Seeing that the first hagiographies of Odulphus date from about the first half of the tenth century, the worship of Odulphus will have started in Utrecht at about that time.
Odulphus has his own church-festival on 12th June.
SAINT ODULPHUS AND HIS CHURCH-BUILDING IN BEST
Below we will give in a bird’s-eye-view the history “from wooden chapel to the present-day church”. The saint-Odulphus’ church in Best is the only church in the Netherlands situated close to the birth-site of a saint. Odulphus was born about 775 in the farm which his father had built in the 8th century. That farm stood in Verrenbest, a hamlet near Oirschot, one of the hamlets of Best.
The first church-building arose by rebuilding Odulphus’ birth-house into a wooden chapel, when he came to be worshipped as a saint.
In 1437 this chapel was replaced by a little stone building, the second, medieval church. On 7th December 1553 the independent parish of Best was founded, with Odulphus as patron-saint. At that time this 15th-century church became parish-church.
Parish-priest Zwijsen’s successor was a good friend of his, Henricus Zomers, who was parish-priest from 1832 till his death in 1878. He began to modernize the medieval church.
However, in the course of the hundreds of years the church had fallen into disrepair and again appeared too small for the number of parishioners. With the energy of Saint-Odulphus parish-priest- dean Zomers, 80 years old made plans for a new church, the third church.
The contours of the medieval church can still be seen on the church-square, it lay as it were “cross-wise” in front of the present church. This parish-church was orientated: the choir of the church with the high altar lay towards the East. That church was broken down (1882) after the present church had been finished.
The present church-building of Saint-Odulphus’ parish was consecrated by the bishop of ‘s-Hertogenbosch, Mgr. A.Godschalk on Monday 23rd October 1882.
ARCHITECT: KARL WEBER (1802-1908)
Karl Eugène Marie Hubert Apolinarius Ferdinand Weber was born in Cologne. From 1857 he lived in the Netherlands. As an architect he was an apprentice of the famous architect Viollet-le-Duc, just like the seven years younger Pierre Cuypers, his later rival. He settled down as an architect in Roermond.
The Saint-Odulphus’ church in Best, finished in 1882, is a transition between the two periods into which the work of this architect may be divided. “In the first period, from 1853 till about 1881, he builds his churches in Neo-Gothic style, in the manner of the so-called “plaster-gothic”. In this style we find (…) arched roofs in wood, plastered with stucco-work and capitals modelled with plaster”. The churches generally have high and rather narrow windows, ”parted in two halves by means of an upright, at the top ending in simple tracery”. From 1882 Weber’s second period started. “From that time he almost exclusively builds in Romano-Gothic style. His churches, all of them Cross-basilicas, have (…) a big dome-shaped tower over the crossing, and near the crossing or the entrance-side two (…) big towers. (…) The windows are no longer divided by narrow uprights and tracery, but consist either of a simple round-arch window, or of three or four little windows, whereby then two or three windows next to each other form one round-arch window and a third (fourth) is fitted in as a rose window over the round-arched window (…) The arched roofs have been solidly built. Everything in the interior is in clean brickwork, with bricks of many colours.” In the church of Best Weber used clean brickwork for the first time. To accentuate important parts of the construction he made use of coloured bricks. Monseigneur H. van Helvoort, who described all the churches built by Weber, calls the church in Best a crowning of all the preceding work of this architect.
DESCRIPTION OF THE CHURCH-BUILDING
The Odulphus’ church is a cross-basilica, in neo-gothic style, with a length of 55 meters The mid-nave is borne by 24 columns. The thickest are near the cross-arms the thinnest in the sanctuary. Alongside the mid-nave are two aisles that go past the transept as far as the sanctuary. There they terminate in side-chapels with side-altars. The right aisle at the tower-side runs into the former baptistery, now St. Mary’s chapel. The church is 20 meters wide in the transept. The ridge of the church-roof is at a height of 23 meters. The word “basilica” in this connection means that the mid-nave is higher than the aisles and has windows.
STATUE OF SAINT ODULPHUS
Since a few years the statue of Saint Odulphus (1901) embellishes the church-square. A striking element of this Odulphus – statue is the (gold) apple. Two stories about this gold apple have come down to us. The first can be read in an official report from 1840 which says that Odulphus “In His youth went to school in Oirschot and one day came back from there deeply sad, because at a share-out of prizes he had been left out, that then an Angel met Him, who gave Him as a reward for His zeal and for further encouragement, a gold apple (some say three), that He then had continued His studies, had become a priest and later bishop of Utrecht; he is the patron-saint of Best, in the church His statue with the apple on its head is still to see.
This legend is generally believed there; the field where the meeting should have taken place, is still pointed out and is called the “St.-Odulphus’ field”.
The second story is, that Odulphus, during his stay with the canons in Utrecht, was conspicuous for his zeal and saintly life. As a monk he learned how to persevere in being silent. For that – according to the legend – he was rewarded with an apple. The latter, later on, became his attribute as a symbol of obedience.
In 1999 the Odulphus’ church, the enjoining presbytery and the Odulphus-statue (and some sepulchral monuments) have been pointed out as protected National Monuments by the State-secretary of Education, Culture and Sciences.