St. Catherine's Church, built in 1861-1867, is probably the highlight in the first period of P.J.H. Cuypers' long and fruitful career. It's a three-aisled cruciform basilican church with a three-aisled transept and a choir with an ambulatory and three hexagonal radiating chapels. At the front the church has three connected porches and two differently detailed towers. Its design was based on 13th-century French Gothic churches, especially those of Chartres and Reims. The church replaced a derelict medieval church. For this church Cuypers used many of the ideas about symbolism in Gothicism, published by J.A. Alberdingk Thijm, Cuypers' friend and future brother-in-law and one of the leading members in the movement for equal rights for catholics. In one important aspect Cuypers does not follow these ideas; the church is not oriented, which means that the choir is not built at the eastern part of the church. The difference between the two towers is an idea that Cuypers did follow.
Both towers are 70 metres tall. Alberdingk Thijm was convinced that a long lost secret symbolism was the reason behind the difference between the two towers, as seen on many French Gothic churches. For this church Cuypers designed two different towers. The southern tower is the more refined of the two and represents the Ivory Tower, symbol of the purity of Mary. The northern tower is decorated with turrets and battlements; this 'defensive' look represents the Tower of David, symbol of strength. It is nowadays widely believed that the difference between the towers of medieval churches was caused by financial reasons more than anything else, so Alberdingk Thijm was probably wrong. More symbolism is found in the many rose-windows, referring to St. Catharina, whose attribute is a wheel. The porches are decorated with sculptures, executed in natural stone.
In 1942 the church was heavily damaged by bombs, and was restored after the war by architect C.H. de Bever. Vincent van Gogh painted a pencil sketch of St. Catherine's church in 1885.References:
The Beckov castle stands on a steep 50 m tall rock in the village Beckov. The dominance of the rock and impression of invincibility it gaves, challenged our ancestors to make use of these assets. The result is a remarkable harmony between the natural setting and architecture.
The castle first mentioned in 1200 was originally owned by the King and later, at the end of the 13th century it fell in hands of Matúš Èák. Its owners alternated - at the end of the 14th century the family of Stibor of Stiborice bought it.
The next owners, the Bánffys who adapted the Gothic castle to the Renaissance residence, improved its fortifications preventing the Turks from conquering it at the end of the 16th century. When Bánffys died out, the castle was owned by several noble families. It fell in decay after fire in 1729.
The history of the castle is the subject of different legends. One of them narrates the origin of the name of castle derived from that of jester Becko for whom the Duke Stibor had the castle built.
Another legend has it that the lord of the castle had his servant thrown down from the rock because he protected his child from the lords favourite dog. Before his death, the servant pronounced a curse saying that they would meet in a year and days time, and indeed precisely after that time the lord was bitten by a snake and fell down to the same abyss.
The well-conserved ruins of the castle, now the National Cultural Monument, are frequently visited by tourists, above all in July when the castle festival takes place. The former Ambro curia situated below the castle now shelters the exhibition of the local history.