Grote Kerk, Haarlem
The Grote Kerk or St. Bavo church is the landmark of the old center of Haarlem.
The construction started in 1370 and was finalized in 1520.
The 75 meters high wooden tower in the middle of the building is the highest point in the area.
Original the church was a Catholic church and became the cathedral in 1559.
Later the church was transformed into a protestant one. In 1853 a new Catholic bisdom returned to Haarlem and a new cathedral was built in 1930 at the Leidsevaart 146.
Mo: 1PM - 4PM
Tu-Sa: 10AM - 4PM
Although we were quite early when we first arrived at the Sint Bavo Kerk we were actually allowed to enter it. Do keep in mind that this beautiful church usually isn’t open to the public indeed. A huge advantage of our early arrival was the fact that there were almost no tourists. Either the bus / coach was still on his way or everybody was having a breakfast in their hotel. Whenever we visit a church the kids always want to burn a candle, it has become a bit of a tradition. The Sight of burning votive candles - real or electronic - is common in most Catholic churches. The candles are usually placed before statues of saints or at shrines. But how did this tradition get its start?
According to A Handbook of Catholic Sacramentals, by Ann Ball, the practice of lighting candles in order to obtain some favor probably has its origins in the custom of burning lights at the tombs of the martyrs in the catacombs. The lights burned as a sign of solidarity with Christians still on earth. Because the lights continually burned as a silent vigil, they became known as vigil lights. Vigil Lights (from the Latin vigilia, which means "waiting" or "watching") are traditionally accompanied by prayers of attention or waiting. Another common type of candle offering is the votive light. Such an offering is indicative of seeking some favor from the Lord or the saint before which the votive is placed. So for us lighting a candle is a way of extending our prayer and showing solidarity with the person on whose behalf our prayer is offered.
A nice fact that we learned that we had the idea that the exterior of the church seemed timeless, it changed twice in the past 500 years! I always love the low buildings that have been built up against the church. These small buildings are notably the former fish market called “De Vishal”. At the south side of the church some of those buildings used to be the library.
The first thing we noticed once inside were all those graves at the ground. Until 1831 graves were allowed in the church and famous Haarlemmers were buried here. One of them is Frans Hals, the famous Dutch painter. Also do have a look up and enjoy the stained glass windows. We heared that these windows have suffered through the years from neglect, can you imagine? The other parts of the church’s interior have changed little over the years. It has been painted many times by local painters. We were very lucky that we were able to enter the church, as it is not known its ability to enter it. Usually it’s closed to the public.
Haarlem has a very rich history dating back to pre-medieval times, which makes it one of the oldest cities in The Netherlands. The oldest mentioning of Haarlem dates from the 10th century. The city grew around what is now known as the central square called the Grote Markt. Right here at the south eastern part of the square you will find the Sint Bavo Kerk, It simply can’t be missed as it has been dominating the city skyline for centuries making it a very important landmark of the city of Haarlem. For the locals the church is known as the Grote Kerk (the large church).
The first mention of a church on this spot was made in 1307, but this particular wooden structure was destroyed by a fire in 1479. As Paulien has lived in Haarlem for several years we were able to walk our way to the church in one direct line. First we did some window shopping at the street called Grote Houtstraat and wanted to have a lunch with a nice refreshment at the Grote Markt (the main square). Once walked around the corner towards the square we immediately saw the façade of the church. Damn those refreshments … we wanted to get in!
Haarlem's main church has a history dating back to at least 1307. Back then, it was a wooden building which burned down later in the 14th century. The present building dates from 1479 and became a Cathedral for a very short time in 1559. In 1566 iconoclasm swept through the church destroying many altarpieces and all statues. You can see the marks of it in the church in form of decapitated saints.
Though it is a Gothic church, Neogothic ramparts were added in the 19t century to give it a more Gothic look. Inside, the organ from 1738 is one of the highlights. Note also the lectern with the shape of a bird. It shows how 17th century Dutchmen thought that a pelican looked like. It was the largest in the world by then. Many celebrities from Haarlem's history are buried here, including the painter Frans Hals.
There is an entry fee of 2,50 EUR (2013) per adult which is more thank OK for the dimensions of the church. It includes a leaflet which will help you with the highlights of the church. Please check the website for information about concessions and guided tours.
The Grote of St. Bavokerk should not be confused with the St. Bavo Cathedral of Haarlem which is a Roman Catholic church located in the southwest of the old town. Officially, the church we are talking about is called Grote Kerk (High Church) only, St. Bavo was the name it had before the reformation.
The tourist visiting the Grote Kerk St-Bavo is most often unaware that the interior of this church, as many other catholic churches in the Netherlands, was victim of the "Beeldstormers" or protestant iconoclasts.
This Catholic Church had been built over the 14 and 15th c. and she became the cathedral of the newly formed diocese of Haarlem in 1559. The deep choir (45 m, among the largest in Europe) was especially convenient for this function.
Already in 1566 the first attacks on this symbol of Catholicism were carried out. A large part of the typical catholic decoration was destroyed; the 32 altars, all statues (only the statue of St. Bavo at the front remains). Some altarpieces were saved and are kept at museums. Some wood carved artefacts were preserved.
The church was confiscated in 1578. The walls were chalked white to hide the frescos as usual with protestant churches taken over from the Catholics. St. Bavo has been a Protestant church ever since.
Strange enough the pared down interior of St-Bavo has been often painted by the 17th c. church interior painters. The famous Pieter Saenredam, who lived in Haarlem painted half a dozen interiors of St-Bavo, as did others like Job Berckheyde or Isaac van Nickelen.
I suppose that the sober interior did favour the perspective and light effects sought-after by these painters.
In my short day trip to Haarlem, we went to see the big Organ at the Grote Kerk---really worth it--this church is amazing and not far from the train station.
Open in summer daily from 10-17 hrs with services on Sundays at 10 AM and 7PM.
The most remarkable building in the city center. The church is huge! It has a very bright interior with some pieces of art here and there, some sailing ships for example. In the choir area you see a lantern on the floor - this marks the place where painter Frans Hals is buried.
The huge organ is really beautiful, built in the 18th century. During my visit some anonymous person played wonderful music, but some decades ago both W. A. Mozart and G. F. Händel played the organ in Haarlem!
Overall a nice church, impressive in its size. They charge a 2 Euro entrance fee which is too much in my opinion...
This is the largest church in Haarlem and is famous for its extremely ornate and functional organ. The organ was played by both Handel and Mozart. This church dominates the main square outside. The admission fee was very small, and the visit to this large church was well worth it.
The dutch reformed Great Church or St. Bavo Church of Haarlem is build in late gothic style as a basilica in crossform. The exterior is very imposant but it's worthwhile to take a look inside as well.
The central nave and choir are covered with a beautiful wooden ceiling. Much of the furniture dates from before the reformation: a choir-screen, choir-stalls rnamented with family arms, and a brass pelican lectern.
The church also has a famous and richly ornamented organ.
Also pay attention to the very nice colored glass windows. Remarkable but scary fact: The floor is paved with gravestones so look down also when you are inside.
Open: Monday-Saturday 10.00pm till 16.00am. Closed at Sunday.
-Adults 1,50 euro
-Children 1,00 euro
-Guided tours: 2,00 euro p.p.
*If there are less than 12 persons who join the guided tour minimun costs are 25,00 euro.
*When: Saturday 2.15 p.m. and in summertime Saturday 11.00 a.m.
*Language: Tours in Dutch, German, English and Spanish.
-Municipal organ recitals: The duration of the Tuesday evening and Thursday afternoon recitals is approximately one hour, entrance is free.
*Tuesday 8.15 - 9.15 p.m.
*Thursday 3 - 4 p.m.
The dutch reformed Great Church or St. Bavo Church of Haarlem was restored 1980-1985. It is build in late gothic style as a basilica in crossform. The central nave and choir are covered with a beautiful wooden ceiling (16th century). Much of the furniture dates from before the Reformation: eg. a choir-screen (1509-1517), choir-stalls (1512), later ornamented with family arms, and a brass pelican lectern (1499) by Jan Fierens from Mechelen. The church also has a famous and richly ornamented organ build by Christian Müller (1738; in 1961 restaurated by the Danish organ manifacturers Marcussen). The organ front was made bij Jan van Logteren; the marmor works supporting it by Jan-Baptist Xavery.
Contiene algunos excelentes ejemplos de arte renacentista, pero lo que más destaca es el asombroso órgano Müller, uno de los más magníficos del mundo, con 30 metros de altura y 5000 tubos. Fue tocado por Handel y Mozart, cuando este último tenía diez años de edad.
La iglesia abre de 10 am a 4 pm de Lunes a Sábado.
A big Gothic church that can't be missed, even if you want to. But why would you not want to see this beauty? And do not forget to take a look inside, the wooden vaults are amazing!
Incidentally, many people think this is a cathedral. It's not. It's a protestant church now. It was a cathedral once, but only for a short period
The old Bavo church on the Grote Markt was built in Gothic style and is hundreds of years old. The tower is at this moment restaurated. From the top of the tower you can see the whole city.
Besides the St Bavo Church on the Grote Markt there is another Bavo Church in Haarlem at the Leidsevaart. You can find more about this church (it's huge) in my TRAVELLOGUE.
Go and visit the Bavo church at the 'Grote Markt'. You can go inside the bavo church and listen to the story about the midget and the giant that are burried in the church. You can also hear the orgel play and learn more about the history of this church.