When I messaged my cousin Heidi (Zoë and Heidi visit Stuttgart)that we’d be spending a day in ‘s-Hertogenbosch (Den Bosch), she messaged right back with a GREAT idea:

“We can climb the Sint Jan!” I was in. Let’s do this.

The Sint Jan is a breath-taking cathedral in the middle of my mom’s hometown. I’ve known it since I was born. I’ve been to mass. I’ve lit untold candles. And once, one of my most treasured and proudest memories, I sat next to my Opa as he played the hauntingly beautiful organ during mass.

Now, since March, for a short time, it’s possible to climb to the roofline of the cathedral and walk in her gutters.  There are guides along the way to answer questions, but mostly, it is simply stunning… and scaringly high.

My cousin and I each developed a fear of heights when our kids were born, even more so as time has gone by. Yet this was an opportunity neither of us could let slip by.  My mother, on the other hand, was very content staying on Terra Firma and keeping an eye on Dane.  There was no way I was bringing Dane, the acrobat, up to a 73 meter climb.

The climb seemed like a great idea, up until we were standing at the bottom of the scaffolding… stretching kilometers high above our heads, into the clouds. Then, it did not seem like a great idea.  But we had tickets, an enthusiastic tour guide and people lined up behind us ready to go up.  The first steps were okay, so we kept going.  And then. Then it started to shake. Tremble with all the footsteps going up, and coming down.  Even worse? I accidentally looked down, through the grating of the steps, and saw the ground swaying beneath me.  My cousins white knuckles gripping the railing just in front of me told me she was severely doubting her decision as well.

After an eon of trembling stairs, we reached the first earthquake-impersonating platform.  Our guide stopped to talk, but the blood pounding in my ears would not let me hear.  I inch-wormed my way to the edge of the scaffolding to look down and take a photo of my parents and Dane, as promised. I even managed a half-hearted, terrified wave.  Heidi and I decided to leave our elephant-like group and move ahead to the next platform, praying for less shaking, and no other people on “our” stairs.

We were not this lucky, and Heidi found a quiet corner, next to the walls of the cathedral, and stopped. She would wait for me. I had my camera. I had to see. I kept going, my legs trembling, many of my photo’s a disaster because of the shakes.  However, the beauty of both the cathedral, the countryside, and the rooftops of my moms home town slowly helped me forget my fear and instead I started concentrating on the beauty through my lens. My lens saved me. I even managed another photo of my family, 60+ meters below, in focus!

There are 96 statues on the various flying buttresses supporting the Sint Jan, the largest Catholic church in the Netherlands. I have a picture of them all.  I did my best to curate my photo’s, but every one takes my breath away. Forgive my over-sharing of pictures today?


One of the many bridges, over one of the many canals in Den Bosch.


We drove, Heidi rode her bike to downtown to meet us.


In the background is a small portion of the Sint Jan. Heidi is already starting to regret her decision.


The scaffolding. From midway up. Now I am regretting my decision.


Thankfully there is an Angel I can call for help.


You too can call the angel for help or prayers.


The angels are my focus. My peace. My strength.


I have never seen the dome this close, this clear, this beautiful.


I am partway up. The scaffolding is shaking like a 3.0 earthquake. This is the best I could manage.


I’m higher, above the pack. You can see the beauty of the statues, the flying buttresses and the incredible height I’ve already climbed!


My cousin & I supporting each other during the climb.


I did it! I’m in the gutter of the roof, no shaking, and I can see my mom, dad and Dane!


I love the roofs. Love!


This dude has the right idea. A drink sounds really, really good right now.


I am not in just the gutter. It has been planked and secured so I can’t fall off. I’m still happy Dane is waaaaaaaaay down below.


I shot this guy through the railing, from the other end of the roof. I love the details, the framing of the photo. My fear is leaving me.


I’m peaking through the railing, at my cousin several stories below, I’m not sure if she’s worried for me or just worried she’s still up high.


The scaffolding around one of the flying buttresses being restored. What gorgeous statues!


The cathedral has a plethora of gorgeous stained glass windows, I’ve never seen them this close. So intricate. So beautiful.


Another buttress, another row of statues, more love.


The streets of Den Bosch.


Me & camera, working up the courage to climb higher. Photo courtesy of Heidi.