Standing for over 800 years, not only is Oude Kerk the oldest community church in Amsterdam, it is also the city’s oldest building of any kind in the area. Oude Kerk, which means “old church,” was founded circa 1213 and eventually sanctified 93 years later. The consecration was performed by the bishop of Utrecht in 1306. Saint Nicholas was named its patron saint. Following the Restoration of 1578 this place of worship separated from the Catholic faith and changed to that of Calvinism. Ironically its current location of De Wallen is now also home to the city’s largest red-light district. Oude Kerk is surrounded by the busy Oudekerksplein square.
Oude Kerk was victimized during battles that occurred in the 1500’s. Both in the Beeldenstorm in 1566 and the previously mention Reformation of 1578, the church sustained much damage as a result of these conflicts. Most of the destruction took place inside the building.
In its early days this site was a gathering place for locals as well as home to the less fortunate. The homeless were expelled when the Calvanist congregation took over the facility. Peddlers would also offer their wares here. The cathedral became a place of public records beginning in 1578 with a marriage registry, but grew to be the location where many important public documents were stored in a safe within the iron chapel.
Dutch composer Jan Pieterszoon Sweelinck honed his art here as an organist and Rembrandt was a frequent visitor. There are 2,500 graves and a total of 10,000 bodies laid to rest beneath the church. Much of the floor is made up of memorial stones since the construction commenced on top of an existing cemetery. All of Rembrandt’s offsprings were also christened here. It is of some significance that Oude Kerk is the only remaining building in Amsterdam unchanged since Rembrandt lived.
Oude Kerk’s interior consists of 36,000 square feet of space. The ceiling is made entirely of Estonian wood and is the largest of its kind in Europe. The outside view of the church affords an exceptional architectural style highlighted by its monumental steeple. Tall windows are enclosed in its 4 facades with a grand entryway allowing your admittance. The best picture taking vantage point is from across the Oudezijds Voorburgwal, the oldest canal in Amsterdam.
Oude Kerk is now not only a religious venue, but also a place where many cultural activities take place year round. In March there is the Catholic celebration of the “Miracle of Amsterdam.” Concerts are also regularly held here featuring various groups and artists. From July through September organ festivals take place utilizing the four pipe organs located in the chapel. The first organ was installed in 1658 with the fourth being added by Organi Puccini of Pisa in 2010. Oude Kerk is open to visitors seven days a week, all year long, with the exception of certain holidays.