The Oude Kerk (Old Church) is the oldest surviving building in the Dutch capital of Amsterdam. The church was originally constructed out of wood but was replaced during the 2nd half of the 13th century by a stone hall. After the year 1300, a three nave hall church was constructed which is reputed to have been Holland’s first hall church.

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Oude Kerk
What is Oude Kerk?

Oude Kerk is a church in the Netherlands’ capital city, Amsterdam. It is the oldest church and also the oldest building in the city. It now lies in the middle of Amsterdam’s famous red light district, and has become a major tourist attraction.

History of the Church

The first church to be constructed on the site came in 1213. This was a mere wooden chapel that was replaced by a stone church in 1306.

After the church had been standing for only 50 years, the first renovations began, with a lengthening of the aisles. Every generation of residents in Amsterdam has seen renovations of the Oude Kerk.

The shape of the church became cruciform shortly after the start of the 15th century, when the north and south transepts were built. This work was slowed down by two large fires that ravaged the city in 1421 and 1452.

The church was Catholic before the reformation of 1578, but was taken over by Calvinists following the defeat of the Spanish during William the Silent’s Dutch Revolt. There were many battles in the Netherlands in the 16th century, some of which resulted in the church being looted or damaged. Items stolen during this period include the altar, the panelling from the walls, art works and various fittings. Almost every valuable in the church was stolen, aside from the paintings on the ceiling that the thieves could not reach.

Following the reformation, the church became a site of marriage registration, as well as an archive for the city’s important documents, which were kept locked away in an iron chapel, inside a special iron plated chest decorated with the city’s coat of arms.

The famous painter Rembrandt visited the church often, and all of his children had their christenings on site. It is the only building in the city that remains essentially unchanged since the time of Rembrandt. The building features a small Rembrandt exhibition, as well as a shrine to his wife, who is also buried there.

The music of the renowned composer Jan Pieterszoon Sweelinck was frequently played over the city from the church’s tower, as he was a frequent visitor to it.

Architecture of the Church

The floor of the church covers 36000 square feet, and is made completely out of the gravestones of famous Dutch people. This is because the church was originally built over a cemetery. Local residents could still be interred within the church up until the mid 19th century. 10000 residents are buried in 2500 graves.

The roof is a medieval wooden vault, made from Estonian trees, and is the largest of its kind in all of Europe. The church is famed for its excellent acoustics.

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