The history of the Old Church
Around the year 1000 AD monks from Germany sailed down the river Rhine to spread the Christian message. Near Arnhem they found the remnants of an old Roman fort, which they transported by raft to Oosterbeek. There, at a ford in the river, they used the pieces of tuff to build a simple hall church. This is the origin of the Old Church as it exists nowadays: a 10th century pre-Romanesque church and as such the oldest church in the country that is still in use. Its age is apparent from the triapsal choir fence, visible in the floor. You can still see several features from the past, like the lepers’ window, through which people who had to stay outside because they suffered from contagious diseases, could still follow the service, and a centuries-old vessel that was used for an initiation rite.
When over the centuries the population kept growing, the church kept being added to: a larger, Gothic choir in the 15th century and two side aisles in the 19th century. In this form the church could seat 700 people. In September 1944 the Allied forces tried to gain access to the bridge over the river Rhine near Arnhem, in a large military operation called Operation Market Garden. Oosterbeek found itself being the center of the battlefield. The Allied forces suffered many losses and could not hold out. The Old Church was their last foothold before they had to withdraw to the other side of the river. The vicarage next door served as a field hospital. The church itself got badly damaged.
After the war, it was decided to build a new church in the village center: de Goede Herderkerk (Church of the Good Shepherd), which is now a funeral home. The Old Church was restored to its Romanesque form. Since 1949 the church has served for many years as one of the places of worship of the Dutch Reformed Church, and since 2004 of the united Protestant Church Oosterbeek/Wolfheze. Sadly, because of the decline in church attendance, the church is now no longer in use for regular Sunday worship.
In 2013 and 2014 the church was renovated. The church now has wheelchair access and the toilet facilities have been modernized. The building is therefore multifunctional and suitable for wedding and funeral services, concerts, lectures, etc. The church can seat a maximum of 175 people.