I'm giving these special mention as they're virtually unknown in my young country and a welcome bit of whimsy in an otherwise austere environment.
In European medieval times, Catholic church services were frequent and lengthy and the clergy were required to remain on their feet for long periods of time. This was difficult for the old and/or infirm and this device came about to make all that standing a little less punishing.
Seats, usually in the choir (quire), were made with hinges so that they could be flipped up and a carved ledge was attached to the underside which provided a perch to rest the backside on. What's so appealing about them is that because of the rather undignified part of the person they served, the imagery worked into these "acts of mercy" was seldom of religious nature. Themes include fables, mythical beasts, floral decoration, parables or just scenes from everyday life. Their secular subject matter is sometimes the reason they thankfully survived the stripping of sacred iconography during reformational eras.
Based on the clothing style portrayed on human figures, the misericords of Oude Kerk are thought to be late 15th century (pre-Alteration) and are delightfully funny, irreverent and a fascinating peek at life of that time.
Click on this link for a look at the complete collection and the meanings they convey. The church also provides an on-site guide that you can use during your visit.
There has been a church on this site since the 13th century, but most of the current building is from the 14th century when it became a place of pilgrimage following stories of a miracle. The story was that a dying man regurgitated the host that he had taken at communion in this church earlier that day and when it was thrown upon the fire it wouldn't burn. So naturally this was made a medieval tourist attraction by the church and people flocked to see the unburnable vomit and provided the money to build the current church. The relic itself has long since gone after being lost during the reformation.
The location of the church in the middle of Amsterdam's red light district is a little perculiar with an information centre about prostitution just over the road! The church is attractive outside but much more evocative inside. Thanks to the reformation the church is not over decorated and in fact much of the interior is pretty sparce on ornamentation, which enables you to enjoy the space inside and appreciate the arches and construction of the design. There are some excellent stained glass windows and climbing the tower provides good views over - well, the red light district.
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.
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.
In the weekend of 11 and 12 September 2010 there was a 'open monument weekend'. A lot of buildings (like churches) were open for the public. Me and Dusty went to the Oude Kerk (old church). The entrance fare was € 5.00 per person. You will get an information sheet about what is waht in the church. This way you will have a good perspective of what all means. While we were in the church, somebody played the organ. Which was nice to hear.
It is kind of hard to find at times---right in the middle of the red light district you can get distracted---just keep walking around the church past all the transvestites and coffeeshops and you will find the entrance---make sure it is open, by checking the website----
I love the carvings in the choir seats---there are interpretations in the sheets you can get when you pay to come inside----the two I have included are
1-2 drunks under one roof---2 people are in agreement about everything, especially about whats wrong
2--Money does not fall out of my ass
old timey truisms even today with a little alterations
Literally translated as "old church" and so is the oldest church of amsterdam located right on the red light district. There are thousands of famous personalities buried on this church, indeed, the church itself is constructed in a cemetery - rings a bell - remember the poltergeist movie?
Ironically (or is it?), the church is surrounded by prostitutes on windows. I think our guide was right about the logic in there - prostitute + church = forgiveness of sins right at your doorstep! Who would have thought?
Oude Kerk means "Old Church". It is Amsterdam’s oldest parish church, consecrated in 1306. The church covers an area of 3,300 square meters. It stands in De Wallen, now Amsterdam's main red-light district.
The Oude Kerk is the oldest parish church in Amsterdam. It was consecrated in 1306 by the bishop of Utrecht and is located in the De Wallen, Amsterdam's main red-light district. The church spans over 3,000 square meters. Its foundation was set upon an artificial mound. Its roof is the largest medieval wooden vault in Europe. The floor is primarily gravestones as the church was built atop a cemetery. The planks are Estonian and date to 1390. The church has gone through numerous renovations through its history. The first set of alterations occured in the 1350's where the aisles were lengthened and wrapped around the choir in a half circle to support the structure. During the 15th century, the north and south transepts were added creating a cross formation. This work was completed in 1460. Before the Alteratie or "Reformation" in 1578 the Church was primarily "Catholic". The Church then became Protestant. The 16th century saw many battles leading to the Church becoming looted and defaced. It became a public space where the locals gossiped, peddlers selling their wares, beggars sought shelter, but in 1681 the Calvinists fed up with the homeless kicked them out. The Church was closed off with a brass screen. Then the Church became a center for the registry of marriages, followed by the city archives. Local citizens continued to be buried underneath the church up until 1865 with a total count of 2500 graves containing over 10,000 Amsterdam citizens. Pipe organs were built in 1658 with the cabinet organ constructed in 1767. The third was built by the German Christian Vater in 1724 establishing the finest baroque organs in Europe. Today, many concerts are performed here including the BBC Singers and the Academy of St. Martin in the Fields. This is now a center for both religious and cultural activities and can be rented for presentations, receptions, and dinner parties.
This is a 14th century gothic style church. It used to be a catholic church called St Nicholas's Church. It is now a Dutch reform or Protestant church. St Nicholas was the patron saint of Amsterdam and of sailors and of this church. As a matter of fact, when sailors saw the church frolmfar away on the ocean they knew they would be home soon and it brought them a sense of comfort. The construction of this church was started in 1250 and completed in 1566.
There is a tour of the church every hour and you can climb the church tower and get some nice views of Amsterdam. Most famous though is the 1728 open organ that is still in use today. Another interesting fact is that Rembrandts wife is entombed here.
The Old Church is one of the most fascinating places in the entire city, because it is so much of a perfect analogy of the ways in which history is made up of stratum upon stratum of detail and inspiration and metaphor. It's one of the very oldest structures in the entire city - parts of it dating back to the early 14th century. But of course it contains elements of virtually every other century and time period since then.
In order to find the Oude Kerk you have to go into the heart of the Red Light District. And indeed, the neighborhood around the church has been "seedy" for centuries, which helps explain the aura of decay which is such a basic character of the place. Moreover, the medieval roots of the church are themselves layered - like the "core" of an onion - underneath the accretions of 17th and 18th century additions beyond. Today, much of the Oude Kerk feels neglected and forgotten - it is a very big space, and you can tell that the keepers of this place have their hands absolutely full just keeping it running, much less attempting any kind of full-scale restoration.
But as the Red Light District metamorphosizes in the 21st century, perhaps the future of the Oude Kerk will bring some increased funding and a little more attention.