One of the most striking features of the interior of the Grote Kerk is the choir stalls in the sanctuary. These 16th century choir stalls are beautifully carved.
In 1367 Duke Albrecht of Bavaria founded a collegiate of clergymen and the parish church was elevated to a collegiate church. This was approved by the bishop of Utrecht, who gave the collegiate its statutes. A collegiate church was governed by a college of clergymen.
The clergymen, also called canons, were on the one hand administrators, but were also obliged to provide daily choral prayers. They had separate seats in the sanctuary of the church, the choir benches. Here the clergy gathered eight times a day to pray the tides.
On ecclesiastic heydays, the sanctuary was filled by a hundred or so men. Each had his own place. The dean was on the east side, closest to the altar.
The places were determined according to the date of consecration, the elders had the most important places. The other places were occupied by altarists and choir boys.
It is also unknown who made the choir stalls. Some call Jan Terwen Aertsz the maker. However, it is unlikely that it was the work of one man.
The benches were made in the period 1538 to 1542. As was customary at the time, prints were used as examples for the wood carvings. The makers of these images included Titian, Albrecht Dürer, Jacob van Strassburg and Hans Sebald Beham.
The Dordt choir stalls have a total of 60 seats separated by banisters. These are arranged on both sides of the sanctuary and are arranged in two successive elevations. The seats have a folding seat. At the bottom of this seat is a sculpted support, on which clergymen could lean during the long stand, a misericorde.
To the west, the choir stalls were extended with benches without banisters. Here about forty people could sit, the altarists and the choir boys.
Behind the stalls is a wall placed, the dorsal. This wall was used to separate the sanctuary from the ambulatory. The stalls (with the dorsal) are 21 meters long and 4 meters high.
In addition to their practical function, the choir stalls also had a visual language function. The influence of the Renaissance is clearly visible. The images are not only religious, but also mythological and worldly representations.
The continuous reliefs on the back walls of the northern choir bench show two secular triumphal processions, the victory march of Gaius Mucius Scaevola, a Roman triumphal march in eight panels, and ‘The Happy Entry’, an allegorical victory march of Emperor Charles V, also in eight panels. The visit of Charles V, Count of Holland and Lord of the Netherlands, to the city of Dordrecht in 1540 almost certainly served as inspiration for this theme.
The stalls on the south side shows two biblical-religious scenes. Eight panels depict the ‘Triumph of Christ’, followed by eight panels with the procession of the Blessed Sacrament.
Of the total of 60 seatings with misirecords, 38 are still present. It is not known where the others have gone.
A number of misericords show pictures of proverbs, but there are also pictures from traditional Christian art.
On the east side of the roof of the dorsal of the northern choir bank a children’s procession is depicted. These images contain a total of 8 panels.
On Silly Child’s day, December 28th, the children were in charge for one day and chose a children’s bishop.
The front stalls are interrupted by entrances to the upper rear row. Both the ends of the stalls and the passageways have partitions, also called cheeks.
These cheeks are also richly decorated with biblical themes. There are pictures of Daniel in the lion pit and the sacrifice of Abraham.