Vrouwekerk, Leiden

The Onze Lieve Vrouwekerk (better known by the shorter form Vrouwekerk or Vrouwe Kerk) in Leiden is a ruined 14th-century church with Pilgrim heritage and an uncertain future.


History of Vrouwekerk

In the early Middle Ages, the Vrouwekerk was a small village chapel. As Leiden grew, the village became a northwest suburb of the city and the chapel was expanded to accommodate the additional worshippers. This expansion work was carried out from the 14th to the 16th century; most of what survives today dates from the 14th century.

At that time the Vrouwekerk contained the chapels of several trade and devotional guilds of Leiden, such as that of the surgeons' guild dedicated to the doctor-saints Cosmas and Damian. A triptych now in Vienna painted by Cornelis Engebrechtsz is probably the altarpiece of this chapel.

After the Reformation came to Leiden in the 16th century, the Vrouwekerk hosted a Huguenot (French Calvinist) congregation. Most of the Huguenots were refugees from northern France and Wallonia (the French-speaking part of Belgium). By the 17th century their community numbered some 6,000 members.

Joining the Walloons at the Vrouwekerk were a number of Pilgrim refugees from England. The most famous of these were Philippe de la Noye, later known as Philip Delano, and his aunt and uncle, Hester Mayhew and Francis Cooke. Philip was baptized here in 1603, the same year Hester and Francis were married.

Many of these Pilgrims emigrated to America, some of them on the famous Mayflower, and are the ancestors of American presidents Ulysses Grant, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, George H. W. Bush, and George W. Bush.

What to See at Vrouwekerk

Today, the Vrouwekerk is on a public square in front of the Boerhaave Museum, just north of the Haarlemmerstraat. It is in ruins, with only one wall partially standing (the congregation now meets in a small chapel on the Breestraat).

In 1999, plans were announced for the demolition of the church ruins as well as historic houses on the square to make room for a modern shopping center. The plans met with much opposition and controversy, especially from organizations in the United States.

The ruins have been preserved so far, and in 2008-09, restoration of the ruins were carried out.

Quick Facts on Vrouwekerk

Site Information
Names:Onze Lieve Vrouwekerk · Vrouwekerk
Categories:churches; ruins
Dedication: Virgin Mary
Dates:14th C
Status: ruins
Visitor and Contact Information
Coordinates:52.161126° N, 4.489626° E
Address:Leiden, Netherlands
Lodging:View hotels near Vrouwekerk
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.


  1. Vrouwekerk - The Churches of Leiden
  2. Pilgrim walking tour of Leiden - Leiden American Pilgrim Museum
  3. Vrouwekerk - Wikipedia

More Information

© Wim Van Isterdael

Map of Vrouwekerk, Leiden

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