October 16, 2023

Jozef Van den Berg Has Reposed at 74: From Famous Dutch Actor and Puppeteer to Orthodox Christian Monk and Hermit

On Friday, October 13th 2023, the famous Dutch actor and puppeteer turned Orthodox Christian monk and hermit reposed in the Lord at the age of 74 at Holy Transfiguration Monastery in Sochos, near Thessaloniki, Greece, where he went to live recently due to his failing health. His funeral will be held on Tuesday, October 17th at the same Monastery and he will be buried there.

Jozef, who was born in Beers of the Netherlands on the 22nd of August 1949, was a very well known actor in the 1970's and 1980's in the Netherlands. He was initially an atheist and married with four children. Later he began a successful career as a wandering puppeteer for children. Then he made his own performances in the theater, for children and adults. Van den Berg traveled the world, from Australia to Canada. In the 1980's, Jozef Van den Berg played in his last play “Enough Wait” for his brother who was seriously ill and was in a wheelchair. On September 14, 1989, he would bring that performance to the De Singel in Antwerp, but then something very special happened.

Van den Berg began to address the audience before his performance even began, announcing that he immediately would bid farewell to the theater: “For me it is over. I'm looking for reality. I can't say anything that's not true for me anymore. I bid you all farewell. My theater life is over in that respect. I am going. It will be good for all of you. The money you have paid can be refunded at the box office. See you later.” The audience was stunned. Was this real or was it theater?

Jozef Van den Berg converted to Orthodox Christianity a year later, after paying visits to Elder Sophrony in Essex, Elder Porphyrios in Athens and Elder Paisos in Mount Athos. He was still working on a few pieces, but they were never performed.

From July 1991, Jozef Van den Berg started living as a hermit, first in the bicycle shed of the town hall in Neerijnen, later in a self-built chapel in the backyard of a fellow villager. He received a lot of attention in the media due to his lifestyle, such as an interview in 1993 and 2001 by Rik Felderhof in the NCRV program De Stoel, in 1995 in the NCRV program Rondom Tien and in 2020 in the television program Floortje Nooit Hier by Floortje Dessing. In 2007, Auke Hamers made the film I Play No More, about his life and religious views. In 2010 the TV program Man Bijt Hond made a short portrait of him.

In September 2014, 25 years after his sudden farewell to the theater, Jozef van den Berg broke through his isolation and came back to the De Singel in Antwerp for a conversation. (A month earlier I was contacted by him to make some corrections to the Biography that I translated into English which is linked at the bottom of this page.) This was during a Theater Festival and he wanted to present his biography Jozef Van den Berg, From Puppeteer to Actor of Christ (Jozef van den Berg, van poppenspeler tot acteur van Christus), written by Francis Jonckheere, and to talk about his historic farewell.

Van den Berg left Neerijnen in August 2023 and traveled to Sochos in Greece, where he reposed on October 13th 2023 at the age of 74 in the Greek Orthodox Transfiguration Monastery.

See also:

Famous Dutch Actor Turned Orthodox Hermit

Biography of the Hermit and Former Actor Jozef Van den Berg


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