warfhuizenWarfhuizen is a small village in the extreme north of the Netherlands, in the so-called Hogeland of Groningen. The area is characterised by its great expanse, small winding roads and enormous farms. It is of old a religious patchwork, largely Dutch reformed with here and there Catholic and reformed enclaves.

The village is built on two wierden, the Groninger version of mounds: artificial hills which were raised to escape the floods from the Wadden Sea. The wierden of Warfhuizen were established in the early Middle Ages, before the year 800.

The hermitage, the cemetery and a few small workers’ houses can be found on the larger wierde. The smaller one is called ‘Burum’ and was once a hamlet of its own.

Warfhuizen used to have two borgen (the down-to-earth Groninger version of castles), of which the largest (Lulema) had almost always been in Catholic hands. The lords of the borg, the stubbornly Catholic families of Van Ewsum and Van Asbeck, therefore enjoyed a great influence on the foundation and continued existence of the Catholic enclaves of Den Hoorn and Kloosterburen, north of Warfhuizen. The church of the village itself, however, fell into the hands of Protestants, who rebuilt it to such an extent that nothing recognisable remains of the medieval church. A few elements of times past remain however: the oldest bell of the northern Netherlands (thirteenth century) and two pews from the seventeenth century.

Around the start of the new millennium the church had become very dilapidated. In 2001 it was bought by Catholics, completely restored and put ito use as a hermitage and Roman Catholic chapel. The furnishings mostly come from former churches and hermitages in Austria, Switzerland, Italy and Belgium. Dioceses and religious in Switzerland and Belgium especially have made large donations to turn the sanctuary into a gem.

Whoever enters from the stark Groninger land suddenly thinks himself in the baroque glory of a hermitage in more southern parts. Baron van Asbeck would have been proud!