There are several things that will strike you as strange about this Dutch replica of Saint Peter’s Cathedral in Oudenbosch. First, it is a monumental piece of neo-classical architecture in a country that has almost none. Its designer, Petrus Cuypers, was a legendary Dutch architect who built the Rijksmuseum and the Central Station in Amsterdam, both of which have come to symbolize Dutch architecture–but this structure is an aesthetic anomaly, both for Cuypers and for Northern Europe.
Built in the late 19th century by a Dutch friar, this Cathedral is a monument to Dutch Catholic’s loyalty during the attack on the Vatican by Garibaldi in the 1860s. During that period, about 3000 Dutch Catholics (Zouaves) went to Rome to protect the Papal State. Inspired by St. Peter’s Cathedral, friar Willem Hellemons summoned the famous Cuypers (who was also a Roman Catholic) to build a replica in Oudenbosch to replace the old church, which was in very bad shape. Construction began in 1865 and the basilica was finished in 1912. Down to the very paintings on the inside of the dome, the basilica makes an effort to copy St. Peter’s.
While the height of the church is not even half that of Saint Peter’s in the Vatican, and the internal space is 1/16 that of the larger church, but it is still quite impressive, especially given its unexpected location in a small town in the Netherlands.