Roel van den Broek

Photography & Illustration

The area where I was born and raised is called Twente and in tribal times the people that lived here were called the Tubanters, which was part of the eastern Dutch Germanic tribes.

Much of the culture of my ancestors is lost, but there is still a very peculiar architectural aspect to the old houses and farms in my region. It’s called a “Gevelteken”, which means something like; Facade sign.


The primitive designs (which already existed in the Bronze Age) mainly consisted out of crossed slats on the ridge of the farm. Originally this was intended to keep the reed on top of the roof from being blown away by heavy winds. It also served as a decoration on the top of the roof.


Furthermore the facade sign was believed to grant mystical protection to the people who lived in the house where the sign is mounted. It would keep mischief, disease, lightning and crop failure at bay.

As ages had gone by the designs became more elaborate, going from the crossed slats to the use of symbols vertically being stacked upon each other, carved out of a single piece of wood (mostly oak trees).

Each symbol; such as the so-called sun cross or wheel cross, crossed horse heads, tree of life and the moon, had its own power. But they all had the same goal: protecting the residents and cattle from harm.


Around 700 AD, the first Christian preachers came to Twente. They tried to ban “pagan” facade signs in the rural areas and villages, but the people didn’t fully comply with the churches’ demands, so the church like many times before found a suitable compromise by mixing up religion and “pagan” traditions (much like the Christmas tree).


Slowly but surely, Christian symbols were embedded into in the facade signs. Symbols such as: a cross with chalice (symbols of faith), the anchor (symbol of hope), the heart (symbol of love) and the calyx (but only when one of the children born in the house was dedicated to the priesthood).


I made a series of drawings showing different designs and shapes and I also incorporated crops/plants/trees that are meaningful to the region, so that they symbolize the bond between man and nature, living in the beautiful region of Twente; my home.


All of the drawings are completely done by hand.

Technique: Ballpoint on paper



Project: Facade signs

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