Fast Facts

  • Location: Amsterdam
  • Attraction Type: Architecture, History, Historic Organ, Cultural Events
  • Significance: Church
  • Best Time to visit: Monday to Saturday: 11 am until 5 pm. Sundays from 1 pm until 5 pm. Closed on Queen’s Day, December 25 and January 1
  • How to Reach: From Central Station, it is only a five minutes walk. You can also walk from Dam square, metro Nieuwmarkt. You can also reach the church by boat. However, cars can be used to reach the church only between 20.00 hrs and 07.00 hrs.
  • Admission Fee: 5 Euros 4 Euros for students, youth cardholders and senior cardholder
    Free for Museumcard and Amsterdam Cardholders
  • Nearest International Airport: Amsterdam International Airport

Sometimes, it is shocking the way in which the sacred and the profane co-exist. The area around the Oude Kerk or the Old Church of Amsterdam — the spiritual, cultural and erstwhile political center of the city — is the Ouderkerksplein area of dubious reputation. It is one of the most thriving prostitution areas of Amsterdam: a statue of sex-worker ‘Belle’ graces the street, just beside the church, and the engraving says: ‘respect sex workers around the world’. Prostitutes are even known to offer their services from church windows, and there is a bronze relief by an anonymous artist to the theme. Surprising though it may seem, it attests to the fact that de Oude Kerk or the Old Church of Amsterdam has always been keenly involved in every important happening in the city’s history. The church regularly holds cultural events and can be rented for cultural and social events.

History of Oude Kerk
Construction of the Oude Kerk started 1250 but was seriously damaged by fire within fifty years of its construction. When rebuilt, it was renovated with the elongation of aisles. In the 15th century, north and south transepts were introduced, giving it a cross-like structure. Renovations continued throughout the 15th century, despite destructions brought about by fire in 1421 and 1452.

Huge changes in the architectural designs were brought about in 1578, with the defeat of the Dutch monarchy and the increasing influence of Calvinism. The Protestant reformers consecrated the church in accordance with their religious outlooks and much of the older Catholic designs were gone, with the exception of the misericords, which surprisingly escaped demolition.

For years, the Oude Kerk was an important state-building. The Iron Chapel is an attestation to the central position that the church held in state affairs. An iron chest, kept under the close supervision of the church authorities behind three locks in a niche of the church contained the most important documents of Amsterdam city. It could be unlocked and the papers could be retrieved only on very important occasions and needed direct participation of a number of city dignitaries, as the keys were distributed among them. Although most of the papers have been since removed to state offices, the iron chapel continues to exist.

Attractions of Oude Kerk
There are many attractions within Oude Kerk that are architectural, cultural as well as historical. Some of the chief attractions of Oude Kerk are:

The Organs: Oude Kerk has been the center of musical performances for hundreds of years, and the breeding ground of the German school of organists who have revolutionized the art. There are three organs in the church, each considered to be among the best in the world. The Great Organ was built in 1724 and was created by Christian Vater. The organ was dismantled and put together in 1738, which changed the tonality somewhat to suit the changing demands of the time. Known as the Vater-Muller organ, this is one of the most beautiful pieces in the world. The transept organ was built by Hans Wolff Schonat in 1658. This was the organ that Jan Pieterszoon, the doyen of organ music in Europe, played for most of his life between 1577 and 1621 when he died. After falling into disuse in the 19th century, it was remade and restored in 1984 and 1965 by Ahrend and Brunzema from Loga. It continued to be a beautiful organ and is now even more so after it was restored to its original 17th-century middle tone tuning in 2001. The cabinet organ is another excellent 18th-century piece.

Gravestones: The church has over 2500 gravestones that bury more than 10,000 bodies. The floor of the church is almost entirely made of gravestones. The reason behind this is the fact that the church was built on a cemetery. Some of the famous gravestones include those of Saskia van Uylenburgh, wife to Rembrandt, Jan Pieterszoon Swweelinck, Cornelis de Graeff, Pieter Lastman and Laurens Bake.

The Red Door: Going through the red door, in Amsterdam would mean getting a marriage license, and for good reason too. From the 16th century, the ‘commissioners of matrimonial affairs’ would hang a proclamation on the red-painted door on the chancel of the church or on the faí§ade of the city hall after marriage registrations were formalized. The door of the sacristy was painted red, and still has the famous motto written on it, which says ‘Marry in haste, repent at leisure’.

Misericords: This is one aspect of the old Catholic roots of the church that went untouched even after the Calvinist outrage against most earlier artworks of the church. The church never really had a chapter, and who built the choir stall and for what reason is still a mystery. What is certain is that somehow the misericords have survived, with its wealth of secular sculptures, depicting various proverbs and nuggets of wisdom. There are sculptural representations of thoughts such as ‘Sitting between two chairs’, expressing folly of indecisiveness, and ‘banging your head against the brick wall’ indication frustration to do the impossible.

Where to Stay
Amsterdam is one of the most visited cities in the world and there are a large number of hotels in the city. Some of the major hotels of the city include Amsterdam Marriott Hotel, Renaissance Amsterdam Hotel and Quentin Hotels. There are many inns, hostels, and B&Bs in the city as well. Accommodation in Amsterdam caters to the needs of visitors of all tastes and budget capabilities.

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