Old Church - Oude Kerk, Amsterdam

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  • breughel's Profile Photo

    Oude Kerk best example of Hallenkerk.

    by breughel Updated Jan 29, 2015

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    The "Oude Kerk", indeed the oldest church of Amsterdam, is only a church on Sunday; the other days it is an exhibition hall (the church stands in the "Wallen" the brothel district proposed by this website as Nr 1 to visit in Amsterdam, before The Anne Franck house and Rijksmuseum ! ).

    On my visit there was an exhibition of photos "World Press Photo 2013", not really what I came for.
    I paid to enter, but I hate having to pay for entering a church, makes me think of Jesus driving the merchants out of the temple.
    What interested me from an architectural point of view is that this church is a "Hallenkerk" a hall church with nave and side aisles of approximately equal height, often united under a single immense roof; the first "Hallenkerk" to be built in Holland.
    The Oude Kerk is an example of Dutch brick Gothic. The construction is light, because the piles on which the church stands do not have much supporting capacity. Therefore the church has a wooden vault and large windows to spare heavy masonry. The surface of the church is large, in comparison to its height.
    The ship models hanging at the vaults remember that this church was once (before the Calvinist iconoclasts) the church of the seamen.

    I have nothing to say about the tower. I did not climb to the top. It is possible from April till September on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays between 13 and 17 h (price 6€).
    The view on the tower is rather limited from the streets of the neighborhood.

    Actually I staid more than one hour in the church just to look at the gravestones (being an old man I'm developing some interest for gravestones).

    Oude Kerk = Hallenkerk. Oude Kerk wooden vaults. Oude Kerk - votiv ship. Oude Kerk  - tower.
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    Oude Kerk - Koorbanken/Misericords.

    by breughel Updated May 30, 2013

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    In the Netherlands religion was not exempt of humor, until the "beeldstormers" iconoclasts started their destruction of religious works of art. The "koorbanken" misericords of the Oude Kerk have been for most of them preserved from destruction and they are one of the things to see of the church and are part of the guided tours. There is also a leaflet (in Dutch) detailing the 34 misericords of the Oude Kerk also called "zittertjes" small seats.
    A misericord is a small wooden shelf on the underside of a folding seat in a church, installed to provide a degree of comfort for persons who had to stand during long periods of prayer.
    These misericords were probably made around 1480 according to the style of the clothes and survived the iconoclasts.
    The iconoclast fury, mainly under influence of the Calvinists, started in the north of France in 1566 and moved to the north through Flanders, Brabant, Antwerp and finally reached Amsterdam.
    A terrible destruction of art! The interior of more than 100 catholic churches, abbeys, convents was destroyed as well as their libraries.
    This resulted in the Eighty Years' War, or Dutch War of Independence, (1568–1648), began as a revolt of the Seventeen Provinces against Philip II of Spain, the sovereign of the Habsburg Netherlands.

    In the choir of the Oude Kerk 34 misericords reached us. The carver is unknown. Most show proverbs or humoristic even obscene scenes of daily life:
    "Een varken die aan het spinnen is" A pig that is spinning. Photo 2.
    I tried to find the meaning of this. It seems it has something to do with the work of women ("Spinnende Eva"). But in Dutch of the Middle Ages a "spinrokken" = distaff had also an erotic meaning. Here I will stop my search.
    Another misericord (photo 3) needs no explanation.
    This one (photo 4) is that of the proverb "sitting between two chairs".

    Misericords in Oude Kerk. Spinning pig. Sitting between two chairs.
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    Oude Kerk - 2500 Gravestones.

    by breughel Updated Feb 6, 2015

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    This was unexpected; I could not imagine a church with 2500 gravestones, often real works of art.
    With age I developed some interest for gravestones, monumental tombs and especially what we call "gisants" and "pleurants" in French.
    The Oude Kerk was built on a cemetery; presently more than 10000 persons are buried in the church. The gravestones have been registered in grave books since 1523 till 1865.
    Many gravestones show text mostly in Dutch - a difference from southern countries using Latin inscriptions - but most show just a number. There were two types of gravestones: "Kerkgraven" (church graves) that were cheaper and are marked with the sign K and "Familiegraven" for whole families showing special marks called "huismerk".

    All these gravestones underwent a restoration process and for most of them it is known who is buried beneath.
    Most famous, at least for tourists, is gravestone nr 29 in the "Weitkoperskapel" of Saskia van Uylernburgh wife of painter Rembrandt. I was more impressed by the grave 50 - 51 in the choir from Gerrit Hooft a "burgemeester" mayor of Amsterdam and collector of paintings and Jacob Boelens, grave 33-34, another burgemeester.
    Moving is that of Agata De Bruynne who died at 24 year old.

    There are also a few monuments; famous is the one of Jacob van Heemskerck in the Snijderskapel. He was in 1607 the admiral who won the sea battle of Gibraltar against the Spaniards but died hit by a cannonball. His suit of armor - minus a thigh plate shattered by the fatal cannonball - is in the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam.

    I staid one hour just looking at the gravestones and got help from the attendant to find the Saskia gravestone (the advantage of speaking Dutch in Holland!).

    Gravestones in the choir. Grave of Saskia wife of Rembrandt. Mark Burgemeester Jacob Boelens. Agata De Bruynne who died 24 year old.
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    Oude Kerk (Old Church)

    by Paul2001 Written Apr 21, 2004

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    The Old Church of Amsterdam is officially known as the Sint-Nikolaaskerk (St. Nicholas's Church). It was constructed in 1250 in the late Gothic style but the beautiful clock tower was actually not built until 1566. The interior of the church is very bright because of the whitewashed walls. Otherwise it is unremarkable except perhaps for the astonishing organ.
    Interesting enough the Old Church is located in Amsterdam's Red Light District, sitting at it's Northern edge. In fact as I went to visit the church, I saw the local police bust a young man for what I assume to be a drug related crime. This involved an exciting footchase where a local pedestrian assisted the police by giving the feeling felon a solid bodycheck that would of done Scott Stevens of the NHL proud. Just a stones through from the church you can see numerous scantly clad young lasses sell themselves from the storefront windows.
    The church is open on Monday to Saturday from 11am to 5pm and on Sunday from 1pm to 5pm.

    The Oude Kerk (Old Church)
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    Oude Kerk

    by jo104 Written Aug 30, 2006

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    This church is in the “Oude Zijde” (Old Side) of the medieval city and ironically its location is smack bang in the heart of Red Light District. This Gothic church was built in early 14th century in honour of the patron St Nicholas. The church tower was built in 1565 & is one of the most beautiful in Amsterdam. The Calvanists left their mark on this church smashing & looting many of the churches priceless paintings, statues & alters.

    Unfortunately you can only visit the tower on weekends when special tours are operated. We decided not to visit the church as the tower was not open but decided to rather climb the tower of Zuid Kerk which was open with a 30min tour.

    Opening hours Mon – Fri 11am – 5pm & Sun 1-5pm Adults Euro 5
    Tower open Weekends 1pm-5pm every 30min Euro 5
    Museum card – free, children under 12 free

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    The church in the Red Light District

    by Helga67 Updated Oct 25, 2004

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    This is something that can only happen in the Netherlands. A church on a square surrounded by houses with hookers. It is strange to see all those scarce-dressed ladies on one side and just some footsteps away from the church.

    This church, built in the 15th century, was the favourite church of the sailors. The interior is simple but nice. You will notice a lot of 'souvenirs' from the sailors (painted and sculpted boats) and graves of Dutch admirals. You can visit the octagonal tower but you need to pay.

    Oude Kerk in the Red Light District
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    Churches: Oude Kerk (Old Church)

    by Pavlik_NL Written Dec 14, 2003

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    The old church is also the oldest building in Amsterdam. Approximately around 1306 this church was devoted to Saint Nicolas, bishop of Myra. Until the “Alteration” (the time that Catholics suddenly were discriminated as their supposed collaboration with the enemy Spain) it was called the Saint Nicolas church, named after the patriot saint for sailors (and children). Before the first church there was already a wooden chaple and a cemetery. In 1334 it became the middle point of the independent church(group) of Amsterdam, but the growth of the town resulted in more then one group. The church survived miraculously the cityfires of 1421 and 1452, but during the “Beeldenstorm” (Statuestorm, in 1566 the start of the 80 years independence war of The Netherlands) a lot of statues and interior decorations were either destroyed or removed. It became a protestant church and traders were allowed to use the building as well. The church lost it’s important role after the New church arose and became more in the picture because it’s situation alongside the city hall (present royal palace).

    The oldest building in A'dam: the old church

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  • simonli625's Profile Photo

    Oude Kerk/old church - oldest building

    by simonli625 Updated Oct 19, 2006

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    The oude kerk or the old church is one the oldest building in Amsterdam. It was built on the site of a wooden church from the 12th century. The church was Consecrated by the bishop of Utrecht in 1306 and was originally called Sint-Nikolaaskerk. St. Nicholas was the patron saint of the city.

    The church is magnificant inside and outside. It is located right at the beginning of the red light district. Once you get inside, you will noticed the unusal wooden roof. It is the largest medieval wooden vault in Europe.

    The floor inside the church is actually gravestones. Rembrandt's wife Saskia was buried here. Over 10,000 citizens of Amsterdam was buried here until 1865.

    The church was Catholic before the Alteratie in 1578. After the reformation, Amsterdam became a protestant city and the church was modified to fit into the protestant style. When the new townhall in the dam square completed and the Nieuw Kerk gradually took over its status.

    The church is a now a popular venue for special exhibits and concerts.
    You also have to check out the wood carving by the chorus bench. They are craved to depict proverbs at that time. You can take a map from the entrance and it will explain what each craving means. They are quite interesting.

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  • mikelisaanna's Profile Photo

    The Oude Kerk

    by mikelisaanna Written Oct 15, 2005

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    The Oude Kerk, or Old Church, is one of the oldest churches in Amsterdam, dating from the 1300s. Strangely enough, it is located in the middle of the infamous Red Light District, providing sinners an opportunity to redeem themselves.

    Although church services are still held in a small portion of the church, most of the church's interior is now used as an exhibition space (there was an art show there when we visited). The most interesting features of the interior are its massive pipe organ, its surviving stained glass windows, and the wooden ceiling. Another other interesting feature of the church's interior are the gravestones in the church's stone floor, the most famous of which is the grave of Rembrandt's first wife, Saskia.

    The Oude Kerk in Amsterdam The pipe organ in the Oude Kerk A stained glass window in the Oude Kerk
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    Seven centuries and counting

    by goodfish Updated Jan 12, 2012

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    While not very religious myself, I love to visit old churches for their architecture, art, and details which often reflect customs or important historical events. Oude Kerk is not just the most ancient of the city's churches but also the oldest building in Amsterdam. Here in the area where the city was founded, construction began on what was originally a Catholic chapel dedicated to St Nicolas in the late 1200's and greatly expanded over many centuries. And like many Catholic churches in England, France and other countries that were transformed during periods of religious reformation, this one was stripped of statuary, relics and other iconic representations during the Alteration movement of 1578.

    But they didn't get ALL of that so what remains is austere but not completely sterile. Above your head arcs an enormous 15th-century wooden barrel vault with images of saints liberated from an overcoat of blue paint and supported by 42 ornamented columns once faux-painted to look as if covered in expensive brocade: you can see a scrap of that on the pillar on the right in my second shot. Several beautiful 16th century windows survived in the Lady Chapel, and an amusing collection of late 1400's misericords liven up the choir.

    Under the worn stones at your feet are the remains of 10,000 people in 2,500 tombs stretching as far back as the church's consecration in 1306. Rembrandt van Rijn of the marvelous paintings you'll see at the Rijksmuseum was married here, and his young wife, Saskia van Uylenburgh, is buried about midway down the left aisle in the Weitkoperskapel. The Master himself had to sell her tomb to pay off some debt so he lies in an unmarked grave in the Westerkerk.

    Good to know:
    Ouke Kerk is an active member of the Protestant Church of the Netherlands: a group formed in 2004 from the Reformed Churches in the Netherlands, Netherlands Reformed Church, and Evangelical Lutheran Church. See website for services - the second link below translates the Dutch site into English.

    Visitors are welcome Mon.- Sat. from 11:00 - 5:00, Sundays 1:00 - 5:00.

    Entrance fees are € 5.00 adult, € 4.00 student and over age 65, under 13 free. Admittance is free with an I Amsterdam Pass.

    NOTE: the church makes ends meet by hiring out for special events so entry fees could be higher if they are hosting an art show.

    Choir, Oude Kerk Window - Lady Chapel Saskia van Uylenburgh Barrel Vault - Oude Kerk
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    Oude Kerk

    by martin_nl Written Aug 4, 2003

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    The history of the Old Church starts back in the 13th century. However the building you can see now is from the 14th century. The church became bigger and bigger during those years and a meeting place for entrepreneurs and a hiding place for the poor. After the Alteration the paintings and sculptures were all destroyed, but the ceiling and glass are still present in the state they used to be. In 1724 the organ was built and since then noting much has changed.

    For a fee you can climb the tower from where you will have a great view!

    Tower of the Old Church
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    Oude kerk (Old Church)

    by Jarin Written Jul 25, 2004

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    From a small wooden chapel from 13th century grew this church, originally called Church of St. Nicholas, through centuries to a large church with many chapels. The most parts of this church are built in the 14th century and are built in the Gothic style and is the oldest building in Amsterdam. For a while the Oude Kerk was the main church of Amsterdam.
    The church has a large, well-known Vater-Mueller organ (1724). It is a peaceful place surrounded by shops, restaurants, prostitution and drug trade.

    Old Church (Oude Kerk)
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    The oldest church

    by lina112 Written Mar 9, 2011

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    The Oude Kerk is located in the historic heart of Amsterdam, in the middle of the famous red light district. The origins of the Oude Kerk in Amsterdam back to the thirteenth century, when its place was a wooden church. Its current structure dates from the fourteenth century, a Gothic building with tall windows. This church is the oldest in the city, although its present appearance has changed over the years, with subsequent renewals and extensions.

    La Oude Kerk se encuentra en el centro histórico de Ámsterdam, en medio del famoso barrio rojo. Los orígenes de la Oude Kerk de Ámsterdam se remontan al siglo XIII, cuando en su lugar había una iglesia de madera. Su estructura actual data del siglo XIV, un edificio de estilo gótico con altos ventanales. Esta iglesia es la más antigua de la ciudad, aunque su aspecto actual ha ido cambiando a lo largo de los años, con sucesivas renovaciones y ampliaciones.

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    Oude Kerk(Old Church)

    by mickeyboy07 Written Mar 25, 2012

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    The Oude Kerk is Amsterdam's oldest parish church,consecrated in 1306 by the Bishop of Utecht with Saint Nicolas as its patron saint.It stands in 'De Wallen'now Amsterdam's Red Light District.the square surrounding the church is the 'Oudekerkssplein'.
    Rembrandt was a frequent visitor to the church as his children were all christened here.it is the only building in Amsterdam that remains in its original state since Rembrandt walked in its halls.In the Holy Sepulchre is a small Rembrandt exhibition,a shrine to his wife 'Saskia van Uylenburgh'who was buried here in 1782.The church covers an area of some 3,300 metres.The foundations were set on an artificial mound,thought to be the most solid ground of the settlement in this marshy province.The roof is the largest medieval wooden vault in Europe,the Estonian planks date back to 1390 and boast some ofthe best acoustics in Europe.
    Opening times for visitors:Mon-Sat-11.00 till 17.00,Sun-13.00 till 17.00.
    Entry is 5 Euros per Adult,Students 4 Euros,Children under 12 is free.

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    Amsterdam Churches

    by Kuznetsov_Sergey Written Mar 17, 2012

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    The Oude Kerk ("old church") is Amsterdam’s oldest parish church, consecrated in 1306 by the bishop of Utrecht with Saint Nicolas as its patron saint. It stands in De Wallen, now Amsterdam's main red-light district. The square surrounding the church is the Oudekerksplein.

    The Zuiderkerk ("southern church") is a 17th Century Protestant church in the Nieuwmarkt area. The church played an important part in the life of Rembrandt and was the subject of a painting by Claude Monet.
    The Zuiderkerk was the city's first church built specifically for Protestant services. It was constructed between 1603 and 1611 and stands on the Zuiderkerkhof ("Southern Graveyard") square near the Sint Antoniesbreestraat.

    The English Reformed Church is one of the oldest buildings in Amsterdam, situated in the centre of the city. It is home to an English-speaking congregation which is affiliated to the Church of Scotland and to the Protestant Church in the Netherlands. It comes under the Church of Scotland's Presbytery of Europe, and is also known as the Scots Kirk in Amsterdam.

    The Nieuwe Kerk ("New Church") is a 15th-century church, located on Dam Square, next to the Royal Palace.
    The church was damaged by the city fires of 1421 and 1452 and burned down almost entirely in 1645, after which it was rebuilt in Gothic style. It underwent major renovation in 1892–1914, which added many neo-Gothic details, and was again renovated in 1959–1980.

    Church of St. Nicholas (St. Nicolaaskerk) is located in the Old Centre district of the city. It is the city's major Catholic church.
    Officially the church was called St. Nicholas inside the Walls, i.e. the oldest part of the Amsterdam defence works. The architect, Adrianus Bleijs (1842-1912) designed the church basing himself on a combination of several revival styles of which Neo-Baroque and neo-Renaissance are the most prominent models.

    You can watch my 2 min 27 sec Video Amsterdam in the evening part 2 out of my Youtube channel or here on VT.

    St. Nicolaaskerk English Reformed Church Oude Kerk Nieuwe Kerk Zuiderkerk
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