Amsterdam’s De Oude Kerk
(The Old Church; built in 1300) is situated in the heart of the Red Light District. The floor of De Oude Kerk
consists entirely of gravestones (among them the wife of Rembrandt) and the roof is the largest medieval wooden vault in Europe.
Accompanied by a guide, visitors can climb the tower to enjoy spectacular views over the city. A Carillon Concert takes place every Tuesday at 2 pm and Saturday at 4 pm, with the bridge in front of the church providing the best spot to take in this weekly event.
Before the Alteratie, or Reformation, in Amsterdam of 1578, De Oude Kerk
was Roman Catholic. Following William the Silent’s defeat of the Spanish in the Dutch Revolt, the church was taken over by the Calvinist Dutch Reformed Church.
De Oude Kerk’s collection is actually the church itself, its interior and exterior. There are countless interesting features, including the Vater-Müller organ, which dates from 1724. For forty-four years the composer and organist Sweelinck played the forerunner to this organ, and he is buried in the church. The paintings on the ceiling and the wooden statues in the roof were added in the second half of the fifteenth and the early sixteenth century.
Artus Gheerdinck:(1564–1624) was a Dutch harpsichord builder.Gheerdinck lived and worked in Amsterdam, where he was appointed carilloneur of the Oude Kerk (Old Church) in 1595. This was the same time period that Sweelinck was organist there. Gheerdinck had a workshop in an attic space at the church, and tuned both the church’s organs. There was also a Harmanus Gheerdinck living in Amsterdam in the mid-1600s, but his relation (if any) to Artus is unknown. Harmanus was also a harpsichord builder.
The floor consists entirely of gravestones. The reason for this is that the church was built on a cemetery. The tombstones set into the floor and the tombs of Dutch naval heroes, including Jacob van Heemskerck, are particularly fine. Among the graves in the church is that of Rembrandt’s wife, Saskia van Uylenburgh. In 1642, the year in which Rembrandt painted ‘The Night Watch’, his wife Saskia died. She was buried in The Old Church in the Weitkopers Chapel on 19 June 1642.
Rembrandt was a frequent visitor to De Oude Kerk and his children were all christened here. A memorial tablet commemorates another celebrity who is buried in the church. He is Kiliaen van Rensselaer, one of the Dutch founders of the city that is now New York.