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The Oude Kerk (old church)

Oude Kerk Old Church Amsterdam Night Oudezijds Voorburgwal amsterdambynightIn the heart of the center of Amsterdam we find the oldest still existing building of the city: the Oude Kerk (old church). The current building is the result of many extensions and renovations, but the oldest parts go back till the beginning of the 14th century. This history of the Oude Kerk goes back even further, till the early years of Amsterdam when the town was known as Aemstelredamme. Already since the 12th century there stood a little wooden chapel at this location, or at least not far from it. In those days Aemstelredamme was not yet an independent parish and the chapel, including its small cemetery, fell under the authority of the priest of Amestelle (nowadays Ouderkerk aan de Amstel). The small fishing village along the Amstel quickly develop into a larger community, thereby creating the neccessity for a larger church building.

Oude Kerk Old Church Amsterdam Night amsterdambynightCatholic Parish Church

At the beginning of the 14th century, construction started on what would develop over the couse of centuries into the Oude Kerk the way we know it. In 1306 the church was consecrated to Saint Nicholas, patron of traders and sailers as well as of the city of Amsterdam. In 1334 Amsterdam became clerically independent, making the Saint Nicholas church the first parish church of the city. As soon as in 1369 the church was extended into a larger gothic church, at which time the tower and a larger choir were added. When in 1385 the construction of the Nieuwe Kerk (new church) was initiated, the Oude Kerk could not stay behind. A large extension resulted in a three-aisled hallchurch that could accomodate the growing population of the city. Several side-chapels were added later, but from halfway the 16th century further expansion was impossible due to the presence of surrounding housing. Since 1560 the outer appearence of the church has not changed much, with the fortification of the 70 meter high tower as one of the last additions. In 1409 the Nieuwe Kerk was inaugurated as the second parish church of Amsterdam. The familiar names of the Oude (old) and Nieuwe (new) Kerk quickly became popular, not only as it concerned the older and newer church, but also because of their respective location in the Oude- and Nieuwe zijde (old and new side) of the city.


Alteration and Protestant Church

Oude Kerk Old Church Amsterdam Night amsterdambynightIn 1566 the so-called beeldenstorm (iconoclasm) wroke havoc in the Netherlands. A considerable part of the population revolted against the Catholic church and in protest destroyed many altars and statues of the churches. The Oude Kerk was not spared, although a couple of statues managed to survive the fury as they stood so high that they were out of reach. Until the Alteration in 1578, when the Catholic city council was replaced by a more progressive protestant one and Amsterdam joined the revolt against Spain, the Oude Kerk was used as a Catholic church. After the Alteration all churches in Amsterdam were refitted for the Protestant service, and so also the Oude Kerk. In this new function the church was stripped from its altars, statues and tapestries. Also the wall paintings were removed or repainted.

Nowadays the Oude Kerk is still in use as a Protestant church. Additionally, the building has gotten a more public function as a touristic highlight and a location for exhibitions. From 2000 til 2013 it hosted the yearly World Press Photo exhibition, but from 2014 onwards this event is organized in its original location in the Nieuwe Kerk. A visit to the Oude Kerk brings the rich history of Amsterdam back to life, and it is a great location to escape the busy city center of Amsterdam.

Oude Kerk Old Church Amsterdam Night amsterdambynight


Oudekerksplein Amsterdam Night Oude Kerk Old Church amsterdambynightAs was mentioned before, the 12th century wooden chapel was surrounded by a cemetery. Due to the expansion of the Oude Kerk, this graveyard ended up almost completely within the current church walls. A large number of gravestones of the more than 8500 known graves can still be found in the floor of the Oude Kerk. The Oudekerksplein, the square surrounding Oude Kerk, was formed when the cemetery was completely decommisioned in 1655. During the 17th century, this created the opportunity to construct houses against the outer walls of the church. Nowadays the Oudekerksplein is located in the center of the historic center of Amsterdam. The neighborhood is also situated in the most well-known red light district of the Netherland "De Wallen". Still, the Oudekerksplein and the Oude Kerk are worth a nightly visit.







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