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 Saint James’s Church in Rolde

This church has a long history. The first wooden church was erected here around 900 A.D. Excavations carried out during the restoration of 1961-1964 revealed traces of three wooden churches below the pavement. The first brick church was erected around the year 1200, in roman style. It was replaced by the present gothic building in the first quarter of the 15th century. In the 19th century, partial repair and restoration took place, which entirely destroyed the style and character of the building. In the period 1961-1964, however, a programme of substantial repair was undertaken, during which the character of the building was restored.

The tower, which is owned by the municipality, is of the so-called Drenthe type and has a height of 52,75 meters.

Upon entering the church, immediately on the left one will find a replica of an old offertory box from 1679, the original having been stolen. For security reasons, such a box had to be opened and closed by three keys at the same time and therefore needed the presence at least two people.

The organ was built in 1820 and shipped to Rolde in 1847 as a gift to the parish by a retired minister. It has two manuals and is of the Westphalian type. There are more than 1200 pipes, some going back to around the year 1700.

One will notice that the door on the north side is particularly wide. This was to allow for the passage of the coffin and bearers at funerals. On the south side is a narrower door, through which the dean or bishop passed to take his seat before the public assembly to sit in judgment and give his decisions and make his pronouncements.

The eagle on the south wall is an old biblical symbol for Christ and His resurrection. It is made of wood and dates from the middle of the 19th century. The wooden chair and baptismal font are from 1677 and 1680, respectively. The big font is a replica of the one present in the church of Vries; the original was made out of sandstone in roman style in the middle of the 13th century. In the corners, four persons are visible which are carrying the font.

In the process of restoration, the dome of the choir and the triumphal arch, symbolizing the victory of Christ over death, were entirely restored. On the north side in front of the arch there used to be an altar dedicated to Mary, which is indicated by the coronet in the little window. The graves of several young children were discovered here. On the other side, there probably used to be an altar dedicated to St. James. Here, a shell was discovered, which was most likely brought back from Spain by a pilgrim who had visited the shrine in Santiago de Compostela. The shell depicted in the window represents this altar. This episode also gave the church its present name.

The chandelier in the choir dates back to the 17th century. It was sold to the Roman Catholic church in Assen in 1850, but kindly handed back as a gift on the occasion of the restoration. In the choir, on the north side, one can find part of the tombstone of a knight’s tomb, originating from the 12th century. Unfortunately, at some time the tombstone was cut in two and for a long period of time used as a threshold at the entrance to the church. In the choir on the eastside lies a slab, which was formerly the top of a pre-reformation altar. Three out of the five little crosses, with which the altar was consecrated, are still visible. In front of this, a stone coffin lid can be seen, which probably was that of a bishop, as can be judged from the cross and the two crooks present on the lid.

In the church, there also is an exhibition of a few sculpture fragments, which were dug up from the cemetery. Without doubt, the church once was richly ornamented, but with the reformation of 1598 all decorations were removed.

The stained glass windows were made by Joep Nicolas between 1964 and 1968. The middle window in the choir is a gift from the provincial government, representing justice. At the top is the symbol of jurisdiction and law; the scene beneath illustrates the liberation of St. Peter from prison by an angel, as described in Acts 12. The window near the triumphal arch was donated by the magistracy and the office of notary in this province. At the top is the creating hand of God, beneath the fruits of His creation and below this again the division of the land. From the Middle Ages until the year 1688, the choir of this church was used as seat of government for the enactment of law and dispensation of justice. Therefore, each of the six former jurisdictions (Anloo, Beilen, Diever, Rolde, Sleen and Vries) donated a window with their coat of arms and a characteristic aspect of their community.