Oude Kerk, Amsterdam

Located alongside a canal in the Red Light District, the Oude Kerk (Old Church) is the oldest monument in Amsterdam. Its large interior is quite interesting to explore, with painted ceilings, a huge organ, and amusingly carved choir stalls.

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History of the Oude Kerk

Construction on the Oude Kerk began in 1250 and was finally completed with the extension of the bell tower in 1566. During the Alteration of 1578, Protestant reformers confiscated the church and destroyed much of its Catholic ornamentation.

What to See at the Oude Kerk

Inside, the Oude Kerk has three naves and a very spacious feel, the latter thanks to the Calvinist simplification. The vaulted wooden ceiling bears faded paintings dating from throughout the 1400s and 1500s, depicting various saints, ships, biblical scenes and coats of arms.

The floor is paved with rectangular slabs for memorials, each with its own number. Rembrandt's wife is memorialized on vault 28K, which bears the simple inscription "Saskia Juni 1642."

A further highlight of the interior is an impressive organ from 1728 by Christian Müller that is regularly used for recitals. And don't miss the inscription over the entrance to the marriage chapel, which warns: 't is haest getrout dat lange rout ("Marry in haste, repent at leisure").

One decorative remnant of the Catholic Oude Kerk that escaped Calvinist destruction is the choir with its misericords ("mercy seats" to assist singers as they stand for long periods) dating from about 1480. As in many medieval churches, these are decorated with wooden carvings depicting everyday life, humorous scenes and many illustrations of proverbs and popular sayings, such as:

The church tower can be climbed on an hourly guided tour for good views of Old Amsterdam.

The pretty almshouses that surround the Oude Kerk now contain red-fringed windows displaying the scantily clad women of the Red Light District.

Quick Facts on the Oude Kerk

Site Information
Names:Nicolaaskerk · Oude Kerk
Country:Netherlands
Categories:churches
Styles:Gothic
Dedication: St. Nicholas
Dates:1250-1566
Visitor and Contact Information
Coordinates:52.374374° N, 4.898239° E
Address:Oudekerksplein
Amsterdam, Netherlands
Phone:020/625-8284
Website:www.oudekerk.nl
Hours:Church: Mon-Sat 11am-5pm; Sun 1-5pm
Tower: Jun-Sep: Wed-Sun 2-4pm; Sep-Apr: Sun-Fri 1-5pm, Sat 11-5pm
Closed Jan 1, Apr 30.
Lodging:View hotels near the Oude Kerk
Note: This information was accurate when first published and we do our best to keep it updated, but details such as opening hours and prices can change without notice. To avoid disappointment, please check with the site directly before making a special trip.

References

  1. Personal visits (November 2006 and August 2008).
  2. Official Website
  3. Frommer's Amsterdam
  4. Fodor's Amsterdam

More Information

Exterior of transept (right, c.1390) and a chapel (c.1550) of the Oude Kerk, Amsterdam, Netherlands. © Holly Hayes
View southwest to the nave from the north aisle (c.1390). Oude Kerk, Amsterdam, Netherlands. © Holly Hayes
Painted wooden ceiling (late 15th and early 16th centuries) of the Oude Kerk, Amsterdam, Netherlands. © Holly Hayes
Detail of a Pieta on the painted wooden ceiling (late 15th and early 16th centuries) of the Oude Kerk,... © Holly Hayes
An impressive organ from 1728 by Christian M © Holly Hayes
Misericord (c.1480) in the choir of the Oude Kerk, Amsterdam, Netherlands. It illustrates the proverb, "Sail... © Holly Hayes
Misericord (c.1480) in the choir of the Oude Kerk, Amsterdam, Netherlands. It illustrates the colorful... © Holly Hayes

Map of the Oude Kerk, Amsterdam

Below is a location map and aerial view of the Oude Kerk. Using the buttons on the left (or the wheel on your mouse), you can zoom in for a closer look, or zoom out to get your bearings. To move around, click and drag the map with your mouse.