11 September 2017 Read: 47
The quaint little Catholic Church in Haenertsburg is at the top of the village, corner of Rabe and Bok Streets. It was built by the late Italian Catholic builders Guiseppe Pent and Secondo Rech in the 1950s.
Known as Our Lady of Mount Carmel, the Church had a crooked steeple for many years. When Father Willibrord retired to Belgium, the church was headed up by the former Bishop of Polokwane Fulgence Le Roy. When he retired he assigned enough funds to fix the crooked steeple and replace the rotten wooden shingled roof. The steeple was not only rotten and crooked but also home to thousands of bees. A local beekeeper was called in and three temporary beehives were set up. The bees, relocated to the temporary hives, meant that the dismantling could begin.
The steeple wasn’t replicated exactly and the tired cross on top of the spire was handsomely restored. The rotten wooden shingles were replaced with tiles that resemble wooden shingles.
A well-known Catholic resident from Holland, the late Mrs Adrienne Carst-van Ogtrop, had donated an ornate Batavian slave bell to the Church when it was built. Her granddaughter, Marietta Iuel, believed it was cracked and still in the steeple. When the steeple dismantling began, and once the bees were settled elsewhere, rumour had it that the Batavian slave bell was in the Church Chairman’s office.
Unfortunately it was just an ordinary, cheap, light brass bell. The Batavian bell had been removed and replaced with this cheap version. The man who apparently took the Batavian bell died years ago. He seemingly put it into one of his many storerooms but his grandson has no knowledge of a Batavian slave bell in any storeroom. Mrs Carst-van Ogtrop was deeply chagrined by this debacle and decided to leave a different legacy to the church, a wooden Madonna in the nave to the right of the altar. The disappearance of the Batavian bell remains one of the village mysteries.
The other bell at the side of the Church, and rung every Sunday, has a tale of its own. Father Williebrord had brought it all the way from Belgium after the Second World War. This bell and its twin used to hang in a Brussels church belfry. A bomb shattered the belfry and both bells crashed down on to the marble floor. One bell shattered into a million pieces and its twin was only slightly damaged. If one looks closely at the silver green bell one can still see the little holes caused by the shrapnel.