f_413_280_16777215_00___images_blog_images_cvoet_EAHN-12_abstract-1.gifMay 31 - June 3, 2012, Brussels, Belgium

Caroline Voet presents the paper:
“Benedictine thought as a catalyst for 20st Century liturgical space. The motivations behind Dom Hans van der Laan’s ascetic church architecture”.


Already in his first lectures on church architecture just before WWII, the Benedictine monk-architect Dom Hans van der Laan (1904-1991) condemned liturgical meaning through symbolism. Long before the Second Vatican Council, he made several plans to alter churches in order to enhance the celebration, stripping them from all ornamentation. Especially in those early days, Dom van der Laan’s position was quiet subversive and his approach was repeatedly questioned by his peers.
In contrast with the ongoing modernist and traditionalist tendencies followed by his contemporaries, Dom van der Laan developed an architectural language that was strongly driven by his Benedictine motivations. To find directions for the conception of liturgical space, he thoroughly studied the writings of Dom Guéranger and Dom Delatte and their commentaries on the old church fathers. In the 1960’s he rediscovered the writings of Maurice Blondel (1861-1949), who was responsible for the ‘new theology’ and played a great role in the deliberations of the Second Vatican Council. Blondel provided Dom van der Laan with specific insights on the process of cognition, focussing on the knowledge of the concrete and singular reality. It was Dom van der Laans aim to define his architecture through this intertwined relation between mystery and matter, between intellect and senses. It formed the ground for his two manifestos De Architectonische Ruimte (Architectonic Space, 1977) and Vormenspel der Liturgie (Form-play of Liturgy, 1985).

The research is based on primary source archive material (unpublished letters and communication, notes, design sketches, lectures…). Hereby, underlying motives and interconnections between Van der Laan’s Benedictine background and architectural theory can be revealed.
In this sense, the work of Dom Hans van der Laan and his quest offer new insights towards an intense interaction between liturgy and architecture.