The Saint Nicholasbasilica
We find the late 19th century Basilica of Saint Nicholas opposite to the Amsterdam Centraal railway station along Prins Hendrikkade. The official name of this church is Sint Nicolaas binnen de Veste. Despite its location between homes and hotels this Basilica is one of the most prominent buildings on the Stationsplein. Amsterdam by night takes a closer look to the history of this beautiful church.
Saint Nicholas and Amsterdam
Since the early days of Amsterdam, Saint Nicholas is the patron saint of the city. Several churches in Amsterdam have been decidated to this saint: the Oude Kerk was initially known as the Saint Nicholaschurch and also the hidden church "Ons Lieve Heer op Solder" was dedicated to Saint Nicholas. Historically, Saint Nicholas was a Greek bishop from the 4th century who is seen as the protector of sailors and traders. The link with Amsterdam and its early history in fishing and trade is therefore obvious. On a sidenote: it is also this saint that gave his name to the Sinterklaasfeest.
The most dominant religion of Amsterdam switched from Catholicism to Protestantism during the alteration. After the alteration, many Catholic churches were taken over and redecorated for Protestant use. The religious tolerance in the city decreases and Catholics have to hold their masses in hidden churches like "Ons Lieve Heer op Solder" at the Oudezijds Voorburgwal. It takes several centuries before the tolerance to religion improves to the level that Catholics are allowed to hold their masses in public again.
New Saint Nicholaschurch
Only from the beginning of the 19th century it is allowed to build new Catholic churches in Amsterdam. The Basilica of Saint Nicholas from 1887 is by far the largest church. The imposing building had to suffice the demand for a new big Catholic church. Dating from the same period are several other large-scale construction projects along the Stationsplein (Station square), among which the Central Station and the Beurs van Berlage. The choice for this central location is a clear choice for renewed religious tolerance.
Architecture and interior
The church is designed by architect A.C. Bleijs (1842-1912). A striking feature of this 19th century Church is its style with neo-Baroque and neo-Renaissance elements. This stood in stark contrast to the usual neo-gothic style that was popular during that time, as seen at Centraal Station. The Church is crowned by a 58 meter high dome. The dome consists of two parts, of which the inner part is beautifully decorated with a starry sky in glass and lead.
The interior was decorated by several artists including the sculptor Pierre Elysee van den Bossche, and painter Jan Dunselman. Jan Dibbets designed the modern stained-glass windows that were installed during a recent renovation (nice detail, he has previously also designed the windows of the St. Gertrudis church in my native village Wijlre).
From church to basilica
On the 125th anniversary in 2012, the church was elevated to the status of basilica. This honor came partly from the strong commitment of Amsterdam with Saint Nicholas and the devotion around the miracle of Amsterdam. This miracle took place on the 15th of March 1345. Reportedly, a dying man vomited a hostie (a sacred wafer) in the Kalverstraat. Out of respect for the hostie it was burned in a fire, together with the vomit. The next morning the hostie was however found undamaged at the fireplace. This miracle is still remembered annually with devoted people walking through the Kalverstraat.
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