On the first Friday of every month, a surreal event occurs in the gardens of Landhuis Bloemhof. I was excited to finally visit the mysterious and hidden Cathedral of Thorns that I have heard about. I arrived shortly after 7 pm to a line waiting in this parking lot and we stood under the trees, in the darkness with these small points of illumination. From the outside I cannot see the infamous Cathedral of Thorns. Once checked in, we are served fresh juice, made from Sumpiñas, which in English means Thorns. The same thorns that created the Cathedral, we were given this sweet and refreshing shot of juice.
As I walked down the path, following the lights, to my right a magnificent and imposing structure can be seen. The Cathedral stands upon a platform and in front there is an open place. To the back, there is a small balcony and from there you are face to face with this impressive work of art. I was sitting under the stars, the clouds, and just under the night sky. Finally facing the Cathedral and seeing it in its full glory I was not prepared for the conflicting emotions I felt. It is hard to describe how I felt before this Cathedral that towers over me as this mysterious and intimidating music begins to play. It just fits with the ambiance and presence of the Cathedral. As the music plays, which was composed by the cousin of the Artist and made from the recordings from within the Cathedral. The sounds from within are layered to provide this mysterious sound. You can see all the walls and layers, all different sizes that form this labyrinth that is completely composed of thorns.
Herman van Bergen
The Artist, the man behind the Cathedral of Thorns, is a Dutch artist, born in Nijmegen. Herman van Bergen is an award-winning artist who lives in Curaçao since 1989. He fell in love with nature, the trees of the island, which are often used or referenced in his work, especially, thorns. He is known for making his viewers find the beauty in what others would call ugly or a nuisance. He started developing Sumpiñas (Thorns) Art Sculptures. His Thorn Sculptures are displayed in exhibitions in the United States and within the Kingdom of the Netherlands. He even created a gift to King Willem Alexander and Queen Maxima of the Netherlands. Just last week the Queen Mother, Princess Beatrix of Netherlands, visited the Cathedral of Thorns. She saw the Cathedral as a pivotal cultural piece of art within the Kingdom and the island.
Cathedral of Thorns
This Exhibition is designed to contain works of art inside, it’s a maze. Essentially, a labyrinth full of artworks and it is an adventure to search for them inside. The Cathedral does not have a ceiling, the looming walls of differing heights are not closed. Standing before the Cathedral, this imposing structure seems limitless and without a ceiling, it feels like it’s reaching for the stars. It represents that there are no limits, no obstacles, just the potential of the universe.
Our night starts with a small documentary that shows the history and the making of the Cathedral. We learn that the concept of the Cathedral of Thorns started in 2012 and that Herman van Bergen believes that art reflects an artist’s feelings. That his Cathedral would represent equality, which is why there are many themes combined within The Cathedral. There are representations and interpretations of all religions, cultures, and tributes to them. In all, it represents beauty, strength, and the purity of nature. Earlier we learned that he enjoys making art out of the ugly. It is clear to see he achieved that here, the thorns here on Curaçao are not pretty and are often considered annoying. However, here we can see them in a new light. As the thorns represent the pain of the past the Cathedral is full of pockets of lights to help us all remember that there is always hope for the future.