Located where the Old Rhine and New Rhine rivers meet, the Hooglandse Kerk (Highlands Church) in Leiden is a cross-shaped church built in the 14th century and enlarged in the 15th. Although emptied of its art by Calvinist iconoclasm, its elegant architecture has been beautifully restored.
The first place of worship on this elevated site was a simple wooden chapel consecrated to St. Pancras around the beginning of the 14th century. In 1315, it was replaced by a sturdier stone church, and in 1377 construction of the present Late Gothic church got underway, beginning with the choir. The Collegiate Church of St Pancras was consecrated in phases in 1381 and 1436. Other buildings sprung up around the church in this period, including homes for the canons, a beguinage, and an inn.
In 1470, Pope Paul II gave the Chapter of St Pancras an exemption from the jurisdiction of the Archdiocese of Utrecht, putting it under the direct authority of the pope. With its status on the rise, plans began in 1480 for an enlargement of the church, starting again with the choir.
In 1525, there was serious talk of making Leiden the third bishopric in Holland and raising the Church of St. Pancras to the status of a cathedral, but in the end the honor went to St. Bavo in Haarlem. The fortunes of the church declined as the Catholic Middle Ages came to a close, and all construction halted in 1535.
Then, in August 1566, violent destruction came in the form of Calvinist iconoclasts. Despite a brave attempt by Leiden's mayor to stop the crowds at the door, the interior furnishings, artworks and archives were almost entirely destroyed. In 1572, the Hooglandse Kerk officially became Protestant. During the seige of the city by Spain in 1574, in which Leiden emerged victorius, the church was used for grain storage.
Throughout the 17th century, the Hooglandse Kerk flourished as a Protestant place of worship. The nave was filled during Sunday services and many were baptized, married and buried here. Various additions were made to the church during this time of prosperity and popularity, such as the west portal (1665), the pulpit (1632), and opulent memorials and gravestones.
The church received less attention in the 18th century and was falling into disrepair when it was damaged by the gunpowder disaster of 1804. Demolition was considered. Fortunately, the city decided against it and the Hooglandse Kerk was instead restored and reconstructed from 1840 to 1903.
Another major restoration was required after World War II. This was undertaken from 1952 to 1972 - locals had to look at two decades of scaffolding! But today's visitors can now enjoy the fully restored elegance of the Late Gothic architecture and 17th-century monuments of the Hooglandse Kerk.
Quick Facts on the Hooglandse Kerk
|Names:||Church of St. Pancras · Highlands Church · Hooglandse Kerk · Hooglandsekerk|
|Visitor and Contact Information|
|Coordinates:||52.158079° N, 4.494218° E|
|Phone:||071 - 514 96 36|
|Hours:||May-Oct: Tue-Sat 11am-4pm. Closed Sundays and Mondays. Organ concerts on Saturdays, 1:30-2:15pm.|
|Lodging:||View hotels near the Hooglandse Kerk|
- Personal visit (July 31, 2008).
- Historie - official website
- Frommer's Belgium, Holland and Luxembourg, 9th ed.
- Photos of the Hooglandse Kerk - here on Sacred Destinations
Map of the Hooglandse Kerk, Leiden
Below is a location map and aerial view of the Hooglandse 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.