This church was partly built after WWI on the foundations of the former abbey church of the Augustinian abbey that was dissolved in the 18th century. The Church of Our Lady can be seen as Belgium’s first modernist church, designed by Bruges architect Huib Hoste. It is built of brick but is typified by the use of reinforced concrete in the roof construction and the cubist form language.
Construction of the church
Immediately after approval of the design and some minor modifications, construction of the church starts in late summer 1921. The masonry work takes two years, allowing one to pour the concrete truss only in September 1923. When the wooden formwork is removed, the largest arch above the choir cracks. Instead of demolishing the shell, Hoste brings in a Liege engineer. Steel tie rods hold the side walls together.
In April 1924, a fatal accident takes place in the church tower outside working hours, killing six people. Hoste leaves the construction site early after the accident and a dispute with the municipality. The abandonment also translates into the interior. Hoste envisages a sober interpretation and designs some of the furniture himself. In addition, the master builder called on sculptor Jules Fonteyne, among other things for the figurative stained-glass windows in the transept and the twelve apostle statues and calvary above the main altar. After Hoste’s departure, the parish priest had others carry out the rest of the interior design, completely contrary to the architect’s plans. In the same year, the new church was inaugurated.
The church tower is accessible as a viewpoint and contains an exhibition on the ever-changing landscape. More information can be found in the booklet ‘Walk ‘Zonnebeke resurrects, what after the Great War’.