het Boek

A unique book about a medieval spire

The spire of Leende (in the southern Netherlands) dominates the surrounding area since 1474 with its impressive appearance. The walls are two meters thick and it is 65 meters high, the style is widely praised. Truly a special building for a village with a modest size. In the spring of 2010 a special book about this medieval spire will be available. The book brings science, history and art together in a unique manner.
Author Max Farjon, as a technician, sought for precision and perfection, but the real challenge came when, as an artist, he saw the artistic effect of coloring in the drawings.
A job lasting years followed. One of precise measurement, accurate drawing and colouring, examining literature and writing texts. Modern precision equipment was used where possible, but often special tools were necessary to be able to perform the measurements.
In doing so, Max soon made some surprising discoveries, unseen to the superficial perception. Clever tricks, based on experience, that were used in the 15th century to solve construction problems. The book also reveals many secrets of the spire. For example, that the tip used to have two spheres, that the spire once served as a prison, that it is a little crooked, that the bells used to be treated with olive oil, and that the dial once only had a single hand.
Other elements related to the spire, such as the organ, the bells and the clock are also drawn in detail and are provided with technical explanations.

The book has 260 pages, size 34x24cm in hardback. It contains a large number of unique drawings of a high artistic level, many in full colour. It is available only in Dutch. For more information, please send an email to redactie@detorenvanleende.nl

windvaantje van de kleine toren

Origin of the spire

The spire derives from time that the Netherlands was part of the Burgundian Empire. It was a time of peace and prosperity with the proverbial luxury, an era in which grand buildings were produced.
The spire was built in 1474 on a layer of debris, most probably the leftovers of a previous church building. It is possible that the Lords of Horne may have instructed the building work and also arranged the financing. There is however no known documentation of these activities.
The spire has some Gothic features. There are indenting niches in the walls, and despite the fact that the tip of the spire was rebuilt in the 18th century, this also has Gothic features with its 8 spheres under the pear-shaped tip.

Over the centuries, many renovations have been made to the spire. The main events are:


The secrets of a medieval building
The tower of Leende dissected in word and image.

The front of the book contains two enclosures:

  1. A measuring-staff, the upper side reveals distances in metres in pictures of which the code starts with an A, H or V (for instance when you want to know the thickness of the tower wall in the picture on page 4.8, the measuring-staff will reveal 2,1 metres). The other side (with the coarser lines) can be used in pictures with a deviating scale.
  2. A picture of the complete tower. All pictures of the tower in the book show either the stone body or the (wooden) spire. This distinction has been made to show details in larger size. However at least one picture of the entire tower was required. A separate folding image was the only means to realise this.

The contents:

Remark: Coloured text parts are linked to unique illustrations.

Introduction (page 0.11)

Around 1960 I became keen on art painting and since then I have spent much of my spare time developing this hobby. After my retirement from KLM in 1983, we moved to the village of Leende in the southern part of the Netherlands, the birthplace of my wife.
The small village has a medieval church with a very remarkable tower. Between 2002 and 2005 I made approximately 25 water colour paintings of the village, every one including the tower. Some paintings contained close up views of the tower, but also views from a distance and always from a different angle. This gave me the idea to paint the inside of the tower as well and to process the results in a book.
The tower is not an object of its own, it is a part of the catholic church of the village of Leende. The book restricts itself to the tower, however some historic happenings are closely related to these of the church building itself, so a few historian facts on the rest of the church are also included in the book.
I started my career at KLM as a construction draughtsman so I know how to make scale drawings of an object in three projections perpendicular to each other. My knowledge of the watercolour painting enabled me to give the scale drawings an attractive appearance.
Soon after starting this work, I decided to also study the history of the tower and try to find out how medieval builders, with their limited provisions and knowledge, had succeeded in erecting this impressing building. This meant spending many hours in archives and libraries. In the course of time I met people who were specialized in a wide variety of subjects. With some of them I grew a solid relationship. They contributed valuable information to the composition of the book. Their names are listed on page 0.14. Among them there are two who edited the texts, this being their speciality:

Chapter 1, The tower observed from afar (page 1.2)

All pictures taken in the past that were traceable have been brought together here. The eldest from 1650-1680. (page 1.3).Two pencil drawings (from 1950 and 1952-57) are my own creation. (page 1.6). Also a selection of my water colour paintings, mentioned before, have a place in the first chapter (page 1.8 to 1.15).

Chapter 2, The medieval society (page 2.2)

There was no documentation available with information on how the church was built or on who commanded the building process.
The most I could do was describe the medieval society at the time of the building process, which was completely different to the present society, and describe how the building of churches was generally realised. These are the general contents of this chapter.
At the time the church was being built (finished in 1474), the village of Leende belonged to the Burgundian Empire (page 2.3). This was a period of peace and wealth, which meant many more churches like ours were being built in the duchy of Brabant in this period, (Brabant being a part of the Burgundian Empire).
For centuries the Lords of Van Horne reigned this region. Most likely one of them gave the orders for the rebuilding of the church in 1474.

Contents of the chapter:

  1. The Burgundian Empire
  2. The church (the institute)
  3. The parish of Leende
  4. Men and society
  5. The lords Van Horne

Chapter 3, Chronicle of the tower (page 3.2)

All events regarding the tower, directly or indirectly, are described here in chronicle order. There was already a church before it was replaced by the existing one. That is why the chronicle starts in 1285.
Years of special interest are:

Chapter 4, The tower from quite near (page 4.2)

This chapter contains the coloured scale drawings of the tower (pages 4.8 to page 89). In these drawings more than 1000 parts are indicated, specified by name and in many cases described in detail.This is the main part of the book.
The drawings are made up using dimensions of the existing tower. There were no drawings available from the past with the required accuracy and detail. The dimensions of the complete interior and the bottom floor are determined by hand. Seeing as nothing is rectangular or parallel, a co-ordinate system with three axes x, y and z was defined. The co-ordinates of the mainlines were measured. Details were recorded by photograph or sketched in a scribbling-block (see bijlage 2 for the report on the measurements).
A professional surveyor using laser/optical techniques measured the exterior. Details of the outside were determined by photographs and by counting the number of bricks. It took three summers, working half a day a week, for three persons to accomplish the job. People with a special interest can probably find something to their taste. We mention the following subjects:

Contents of the chapter:

  1. Explanation (cross-sections, plain view, scale etc.)
  2. Floor 0 (porch)
  3. Floor 1 (organ-room)
  4. Floor 2 (room for equipment gps-traffic)
  5. Floor 3 (clock-room)
  6. Floor 4 (bell-room)
  7. Winding stairs
  8. Spire interior
  9. Complete tower (exterior)
  10. Collection of all coloured scale-drawings

Chapter 5, Towers around Leende (page 5.2)

In this chapter a comparison is made with 23 other medieval towers in the neighbourhood. They are situated within a 25 kilometres radius of Leende. As can be seen on pages 5.6 and 7 the tower of Leende is relatively large for the size of the community. Leende is much smaller than the communities where the four larger ones are situated. The situation in the 15th century could not be determined, but most probably Leende also had an excessive tower then.
A measuring team visited all 23 towers in the summer of 2009 and determined the width of the bottom with a measuring-tape and the height by theodolite (see bijlage 1 for the measuring results). The rectangle with these dimensions was a reference in the photograph taken perpendicular to the façade. This made it possible to draw up the pictures you see on page 5.6/7.

Chapter 6, Building the tower (page 6.2)

There is no documentation on the building of this tower. However quite a lot of information can be derived from the building itself and from literature.
The first few paragraphs of this chapter are devoted to the possible master builder, building location and the general composition of the building.
Quite a bit of documentation is available on two parts which were built later, in the existence of the tower.

  1. The building of a two meters deep foundation underneath the complete tower. A famous architect named Joseph Cuypers devised this plan after he was asked for advice on a serious problem. The brickwork had started to develop large vertical cracks in the western façade towards the end of the 19th century. This was caused by subsidence of the soil underneath, the consequence of digging a deep hole for the installation of a lightning-conductor. There was a chance that the tower was going to collapse.
    The spectacular plan was accomplished in 1906/7. Elaborate documentation was found in archives which made it possible to reconstruct the process in detail. Cuypers divided the footprint in 104 parts and replaced the sand gradually with brickwork. The process is described using many figures (see pages 6.19 to 23)
  2. The spire was rebuilt after the former one was destroyed in a fire in 1699. Two local carpenters did the job by contract and again the contract survived time and was detected in an archive. That is why we are able to show you a pictographical description of the building-process. One thing however was not mentioned in the documents: how the carpenters hoisted the heavy oak beams in place? The heaviest weighed 900 kilograms.
    An elaborate study of hoisting techniques in the 18th century and some experiments led to a system that was most probably applied (pages 6.37 to 6.43).

Underneath the spire the construction is 100 % brickwork, a rough calculation results in one million bricks. The walls at the bottom being 2,1 metres thick, diminishing to the top at 1.5 metres. Much study has been devoted to the bricklaying techniques at the time that the tower was built. The literature on this subject is very scarse. Two items in this study might be of interest:

  1. the use of horizontal string for guiding the bricklaying process (as used in present times) appears to have been non-existent in medieval times. This is based on an analysis of 56 medieval pictures that show bricklaying activities (figure 6-18 on page 6.29 is one of them, also the one on page 6.26) (the pictures are derived from a book by Frieda van Tychem, 1966) (see bijlage 20) for this study).
    This might be the reason that bricklaying in medieval times went very slowly, because each individual brick had to be positioned in place by checking with a plummet and plummet-bar (the last name is an own creation, in Dutch: “loodrei”, the tool is shown in figure 6.18 used by the bending figure on the left). It was a known fact that the building of a church like this required many decades to complete. Lengthy building durations were caused by periods of poverty, disorganization, disturbed supply of materials, long winters etc. But an important factor could have been the slow bricklaying process mentioned previously.
  2. the bricklaying technique for very thick walls.
    In this book a serious research is carried out to find out how the bricklaying process occurred for the erecting of a 2 metres thick wall. A bricklayer standing on the work platform can not reach the middle of such a thick wall, but neither is it necessary to maintain straight and tight masonry patterns inside the wall.

Most likely it was a two-step operation.
-1- building thin walls on the inner and outer side of the wall, keeping to strict masonry patterns
-2- filling up the space in-between these shape walls (as I call them) The bricklayer would stand on his work. No strict patterns were required, however a cohesion with the shape-walls and filling-bricks in relation to each other had to be achieved. Most probably this was realised by letting bricks protrude inwards while erecting the shape-walls and laying rows of filling-bricks under an angle with the shape-walls. Using reverse angles for each new layer of bricks.
In the figures on pages 6.32/33 the process is shown.

Contents of the chapter:

  1. Late-medieval building-manner
  2. Materials and tools
  3. Speculations about how it started
  4. Building-plot
  5. Building of the foundation
  6. Building of the stone-body
  7. Building of the spire

Chapter 7, Attachments (“bijlagen” in Dutch) (page 7.2)

A number of studies have been performed in order to find answers to certain questions. These studies would have enlarged the volume of the book considerably and only a few readers are really interested in this supporting material.
This is why these enclosures have been left out of the book, but they can still be consulted on this website. They are listed in this chapter and a brief description is added.

The remaining parts of the book refer to sources and a list of names of people that helped in the process of making this book. In the back of the book a separate list is attached (similar to an exercise-book, Dutch name: “Verwijslijsten”). Many figures and scale drawings have letters or numbers that refer to a list with names or descriptions of the part indicated. Mostly this list is located on the same page, so you don’t need to turn any pages. However in a number of cases it was impossible to maintain this. To avoid having to turn too many pages, the list has been put in a separate booklet so you can consult the list and the corresponding figure simultaneously. Each figure is always accompanied with a description (sometimes quite extended). In the case figures have a separate list, the description is also attached to the list.