De Groene Kathedraal (1996)

Marinus Boezem

A new city needs a cathedral, according to Marinus Boezem. This artist considers the Gothic cathedral the culmination of ‘space structured by human ingenuity’, comparable to the construction of the Flevoland polders at the bottom of the former Zuiderzee.

That is why in 1987, he planted 178 poplars in the very young polder soil in accordance with the ground plan of Reims Cathedral. De Groene Kathedraal (The Green Cathedral) in Almere has no roof, no stained glass windows and no walls. Here, rain pours onto the church floor and wind whispers through the columns-cum-trees, making the leaves rustle. Your eyes are forever drawn up and down; to the slender trees that, in lieu of buttresses and columns, touch the sky; to the shell circles around the tree trunks that refer to the fury of the former sea.

A couple of years later a second cathedral, the so-called ‘contra cathedral’, began to emerge a little further down. Here, open spaces cut out of beech hedges represent the cathedral perimeter. When the grass is not too high, you can find the stones that mark the locations of the trees-cum-columns in the positive version.

While the cathedrals quietly continued to grow, buildings arose one after the other in Almere. Although the trees were once planted in a no-man’s-land, today a residential area abuts it. The work of art has become part of the history of the city and of Flevoland cultural life; it’s a popular resting place for cyclists and canoeists and even a wedding venue.

Marinus Boezem's De Groene Kathedraal (1996) is located on the Kathedralenpad in Almere, The Netherlands. Click here for the address and coordinates.

De Groene Kathedraal in winter of 1998-1999, Photograph: Bert Boekhoven, Collection Batavialand, Lelystad

Artist: Marinus Boezem (1934)
Title: De Groene Kathedraal (The Green Cathedral)
Start planting: 16 April 1987
Unveiling: 1996
Area: two parts, 150 x 75 meter
Materials: Italian poplars (Popolus Nigra Italica), stone, concrete, shells
Location: Kathedralenpad (approach from Tureluurweg), Almere (The Netherlands)
Commissioned by: Rijksdienst voor de IJsselmeerpolders
Managed by: municipality of Almere and Staatsbosbeheer