We have to go back to a document dated 1118 to find the first recorded evidence of the church at Medemblik when the Bishop of Utrecht bestowed the church property on the Canons of St. Martin (Sint Maarten in Dutch). The church building referred to in that document was probably located at the same site as the present building.
The construction of the present church was started in 1404. The church and tower were completed in the course of the 15th Century. In 1517 Medemblik was attacked and burnt by a gang of thieves under the direction of a man called “Grote Pier”. The church was also destroyed by the flames; the tower however remained undamaged.
After a collection in the diocese of Utrecht the church was able to be rebuilt. Shortly after the reconstruction the western side of the city caught fire again and was razed to ashes. History repeated itself, the church burnt to the ground, the tower however was spared. In 1555 the rebuilding of the church was started. In order to pay for this, Medemblik received alleviation of taxes for a period of ten years from King Philip the Second. The church that was then built, in basic form, is the same as to-day.
The tower in its present form was built in the 15th Century and is therefore well over one hundred years older than the church itself. The thickness at the base of the walls is two metres compared to the thickness of the steeple which is only one and a half bricks.
The present crowning - the trans gallery and the little dome with the open apple- was installed in 1661.
In that year a part of the original spire had to be dismantled because of it’s dilapidated condition.
Three bells are hanging in the tower, of which the oldest and largest has a diameter of 1,25 metres. This bell is called Saint Peter (Sint Pieter in Dutch) and was manufactured by Everardus Splinter from Enkhuizen in 1636. The other two bells were made by the Hemony Brothers; one bears the date 1649.
The tower was restored in 1925/26 and in 1969/70. There are plans for a new renovation as the basement of the tower shows new deficiencies, possibly caused by the reclamation of the Wieringermeer. It has been established that the tower subsides out of position in a north easterly direction an average of three millimeters per year.
The church is a late-gothic hallchurch with three aisles; the south aisle together with the nave lies under one roof.
The church floor has been raised, most probably to create more space for graves. Because of that the bases of the pillars have disappeared under the present church floor.
In 1866 the church was shorthened by approximately 20 metres because of the deteriorating condition of that section. Both choirs, located at the eastside, as well as the extension at the northside, have been pulled down.
Eight stained-glass windows, which were mounted in the choir, have disappeared.
It is known that one of these windows is in a country house on the island of Guernsey.
In 1902 the church again was renovated and the walls plastered with Portland cement.
A problem for the church was the enormous saline content in the walls.
Every plaster coating came off sooner or later. Only the Portland cement appeared to be durable. However a consequence of this was a very gloomy church interior.
In 1991/93 the church was renovated again. Roof and gutters were entirely renewed; parts of the wooden rafters were replaced and the north-eastern outerwall was rebuilt. This was the same part of the church that had been demolished in 1866. The wooden structure was badly affected by the dampness inside the church as well as to the devasting work of the “death-watch beetle” (a multicolor gnawing bug). The old plaster coating, where it came off, was replaced by a modern coating of plaster which is highly permeable to water. The church has also been equipped with a central heating system
The name of the church.
Originally Saint Martin (Sint Maarten) was the second church patron, next to Saint Boniface. After the Reformation in 1572 the name of Boniface remained with the Reformed church and Saint Martin became the principle patron of the Roman Catholic church.
The interior of the church.
The nave is the heart of the church.
Services are performed in this area in which one also finds both organs as well as the historical furniture.
The Baptistry Garden.
The Baptistry Garden is the central area around the pulpit and is surrounded by the baptistery-screen. The pulpit dates from approximately 1560, the stairs probably from 17th century.
The large wooden panels depict the history of Judith and Holofernes, according to the apocryphal book of Judith.
On the small door: the imprisonment of Achior; on the other panels subsequently: the meal, the murder of Holofernes and the pursuit of the Assyrian troops.
A copper hour-glass container is mounted on the bannisters which served to verify the time of the minister’s sermons; this container dates from the 17th century similar to the baptismal-font and the lecterns. The baptistry-arches, showing the coat of arms of Medemblik, form the entrance to the Baptistry Garden at the southside and date from the late 18th Century.
The entrance on the northside has been created during the latest renovation for the purpose of enlarging the space available for the services in the church.
On the eastside of the church you can find the pew, which was assigned to the nobility and higher layers of the community, with small arched panels in the backwall and carved crowns on the little doors. This special pew as well as the other pews, which are decorated in a more simple way, all date back to the 17th century.
Two 16-arm and one 24-arm copper chandeliers hang in the central nave. All three were donated in 1660. The smaller three- and four-arm chandeliers in the south aisle are probably somewhat older. The electrified gaslamps with white glass covers in the central nave are from the early years of this century.
The chandeliers hanging in the north aisle, as well as both the choir areas, were newly made and installed during the last renovation inspired by the design of the gaslamps.
The paintings (cartouches) on the columns.
On the columns of the church, large scrolls of Scripture-texts have been painted as cartouches , fully framed in fruit-ornamental settings. Underneath one of these Scripture-texts one can still find the date of 1602. The text on the column next to the pulpit on the eastside stems from the apocryphal book of Jezus Sirach, according to the text from the Deux-Aesbible, an often used bible translation which preceded the (Dutch) Authorized Version of the Bible.
The stained-glass windows
The window farthest east was donated by the city of Monnikendam in 1670. Above the coat of arms and name of Monnikendam there is also the coat of arms of Medemblik.
The window next to this was donated by the poor-relief board. Underneath the title on this window is the history of “ the two mites of the poor widow” and is pictured in grisaille (a technique of imitating the effect of relief).
The window above the entrance was made in 1902 at the occasion of the renovation.
The fourth window was donated in 1671 by the Rijnschippers” guild. At the topside one can see the history of Noah’s Ark pictured; underneath a view of Medemblik.
The next window was probably donated by mayors and church wardens in 1709. Underneath the throne of the city-virgin the glass is signed: ”S. v.d.Meulen fecit Ao 1709”.
In the middle of the last window the coat of arms of the city is shown with the date of 1681, flanked by the coats of arms of the donators. At the very bottom of this window one can see the representation of Solomonian jurisdiction. In 1902-1905 most of the panes were renovated. During the renovation in 1991-1993 they were all removed from their frames and entirely reconditioned. Firstly strenghtened glass panes were mounted in the original frames and then the stained-glass windows were installed behind these panes. The windows are now protected against the elements.
The grave of Lord Murray
Against the west wall, in the south aisle, there is the beautifully ornamented gravestone of Lord George Murray.
This Scottish nobleman, fifth son of the Duke of Athole, ended up in Medemblik after many journeys. He died here in 1760 and was buried in the choir of the church. When the church was scaled down in size in the 19th century his grave was then positioned outside the church.
This place is now covered with a simple stone.
The original gravestone was placed inside the church; initially in the north aisle.
After the renovation in 1991-1993 it was moved to the present location.
Above the gravestone hangs the lozenge shaped escutcheon of the Dukes of Athole, divided in sixteen quarters and with the aphorism “Tout prest”. The text at one of the quarters reads “Prince d’Orange” : the great-grandmother of George Murray was Charlotte de la Trémouille, a daughter of Prince William of Orange and Charlotte de Bourbon.
During the digging at the church grounds in 1964 fragments of Bentheimer sandstone were found. Upon closer examination these fragments appeared to be the remnants of two sarcophagusses.
The sarcophagus of which most of the remnants were found, was reconstructed in 1992.
On the sarcophagus one can still see the depiction of a cross which points to a cleric having been buried in it.
The north aisle, fitted out for cultural happenings, is secluded by the choir-screen. Most probably this partition has originally screened the choir that was connected to the nave. On the cornice one can find the year 1572 as well as the inscription:
“ ’t misbruyck in Gods kerck allengskens ingecomen is alhier wederom anno 1572 afgenomen”.
(roughly meaning: “the abuses which have gradually crept into this church, have again diminished here after the year 1572”).
The use of the church
The Reformed-Calvinist Church community hold their divine services in the St. Boniface church. Sunday afternoon services, prayer-services and the like are performed in the chapel behind the special pew. This enclosed space also serves as an area for meditation.
In the north aisle concerts and stageperformances are regularly organized.
During the spring- and summer season a series of organ concerts are given. Art exhibitions are regularly displayed in the church.