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 Broch of Gurness is an Iron Age broch village. Settlement here began sometime between 500 and 200 BC. At the centre of the settlement is a stone tower or broch, which once probably reached a height of around 10 metres. Its interior is divided into sections by upright slabs. The tower features two skins of drystone walls, with stone-floored galleries in between. These are accessed by steps. Stone ledges suggest that there was once an upper storey with a timber floor. The roof would have been thatched, surrounded by a wall walk linked by stairs to the ground floor. The broch features two hearths and a subterranean stone cistern with steps leading down into it. It is thought to have some religious significance, relating to an Iron Age cult of the underground.
The remains of the central tower are up to 3.6 metres high, and the stone walls are up to 4.1 metres thick. The tower was likely inhabited by the principal family or clan of the area but also served as a last resort for the village in case of an attack.
The broch continued to be inhabited while it began to collapse and the original structures were altered. The cistern was filled in and the interior was repartitioned. The ruin visible today reflects this secondary phase of the broch's use.
The site is surrounded by three ditches cut out of the rock with stone ramparts, encircling an area of around 45 metres diameter. The remains of numerous small stone dwellings with small yards and sheds can be found between the inner ditch and the tower. These were built after the tower, but were a part of the settlement's initial conception. A 'main street' connects the outer entrance to the broch. The settlement is the best-preserved of all broch villages.
Pieces of a Roman amphora dating to before 60 AD were found here, lending weight to the record that a 'King of Orkney' submitted to Emperor Claudius at Colchester in 43 AD.
At some point after 100 AD the broch was abandoned and the ditches filled in. It is thought that settlement at the broch continued into the 5th century AD, the period known as Pictish times. By that time the broch was not used anymore and some of its stones were reused to build smaller dwellings on top of the earlier buildings. Until about the 8th century, the site was just a single farmstead.
In the 9th century, a Norse woman was buried at the site in a stone-lined grave with two bronze brooches and a sickle and knife made from iron. Other finds suggest that Norse men were buried here too.