The English translation of this post will follow soon.
(NL) Ons’ Lieve Heer op Solder
The Gerardus Majellakerk is a former Roman Catholic church in Ambonplein in the Indische Buurt in Amsterdam-Oost. The church was built in 1925 to a design by the architect Jan Stuyt and was the centre of a Catholic complex that included housing, a convent and two schools. Like many of the churches Stuyt designed, the Gerardus Majellakerk was inspired by the Byzantine churches he visited during a trip to the Middle East in 1903, in particular the Hagia Sophia in Istanbul. The main reference to Byzantine architecture is the large twelve-sided crossing tower. A west tower formed part of the original design but was never built
In the 1930s, problems began to arise regarding the building’s upkeep and maintenance. The fact that the Indische Buurt was not an affluent neighbourhood contributed to the church’s financial difficulties. Increasing secularization in the 1960s and urban renewal, which resulted in a change in the makeup of the local population, added to the maintenance problems.
Eventually, in 1992, the church was declared redundant and was handed over to Stadsherstel Amsterdam. The architect André van Stigt restored the building and created spaces that could be rented out to various organizations. From 1994 to 2011, the building housed the Clara Wichmann Institute and Aletta, among others. In 2012, the Netherlands Philharmonic Orchestra and the Netherlands Chamber Orchestra moved into the building. (Arcam)
Unusual buildings are sometimes inconspicuous. Take the Thomaskerk on Prinses Irenestraat in Amsterdam’s Zuid district. On the outside, this church, built of ordinary yellow brick, looks rather untidy. You could easily walk right past it. But don’t be mistaken; this building, built in 1966, is a high point in post-war Dutch church architecture.
Exciting and unique
To understand this, take a look inside. A marble-paved entrance area leads, via several wide steps beneath a relatively low ceiling, to the main body of the church, an astonishing and imposing space. An enormously high, undulating ceiling with a triangular clerestory window, heavy concrete walls and pillars, inimitable differences in level and rotations make this interior exciting and unique.
Much of the design shows the influence of Le Corbusier (1887-1965), a Swiss-French architect whose influence on the development of modern architecture cannot be overestimated. The architect who designed the Thomaskerk, Karel Sijmons (1908-1989), came under the influence of Le Corbusier’s work early on in his career. The Thomaskerk shows the influence in particular of the Cathedral of Ronchamps, designed by Le Corbusier in 1954, with thick concrete walls and an undulating ceiling.
Protestant church buildings
Karel Sijmons was a moderate modernist who came to specialize in Protestant church architecture. He developed innovative ideas, which he applied in his church designs. Ideas, for example, about which spaces were most suited to certain parts of the liturgy, or the positioning of the baptismal font. In the Thomaskerk, liturgical acts such as a christening, the liturgy of the Word and the celebration of Holy Communion are housed in separate spaces. There is also a separate area for prayer.
The church’s ‘untidy’ exterior is the result of Sijmon’s belief that all of these activities should have a separate space. What also played a part was the idea that the church should be part of a more general cultural life. For this reason, the church spaces are surrounded by spaces that can be used for non-ecclesiastical functions, the most important of which is a theatre, the ‘Thomastheater’ (on the left in the photo, with the green copper roof). Lunch concerts and film screenings, among other things, are regularly held here.
(Text: Dave Wendt/ ARCAM, photo: Jan de Wit).
The first church
The remains of the settlement of the first people of Sloter have been discovered in a corner of the area De Vrije Geer, on the site of the former Osdorp council offices. Excavations unearthed the foundations and remains of farms and a cemetery with a wooden chapel, the very first Sloterkerk. A document of 1063 mentions ‘Sloton’ as the daughter church of that of Velsen.
In the twelfth century, the people of Sloten left their settlement, which was sinking ever lower, near the turbulent lake Slotermeer and moved to a mound close to today’s Dorpsplein on Sloterweg. Here they built a sturdy stone version of their church, which was, as Bert Stilma quotes in his book about Sloterkerk, ‘much wider and much higher than the present (= third) church that is scarcely half the size of the old one’. In 1573, the church was set alight by the Geuzen and was largely destroyed.
In the seventeenth century, the third version of Sloterkerk was frequently depicted. A drawing by Rembrandt van Rijn, who is said to have lived in the village of Sloten for six years, shows how the church had been rebuilt; making use of the retained inner walls and foundations, but smaller. In 1658, J.A. Beerstraten drew the church in the snow, surrounded by water. An engraving in O. Dappers’ book about Amsterdam of 1663 shows a bridge over the water to the church entrance and walkers walking towards Sloterweg.
Roads and waterways church
During the course of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, the church fell into disrepair. The state department of roads and waterways was responsible for planning a new church, which was designed by the architect P.J. Hamer. The first stone was laid on 27 March 1860 and the church was completed a year later. The pulpit, lecterns and chandeliers from the old church were reused in the new church.
In 1921, Amsterdam incorporated Sloten. From that time on, the ties between the church and the facilities in the encroaching city districts were strengthened. At the end of last century, parts of the church were renewed (the floor, invalid toilet, window frames and ceilings) and in 2003 the tower and the nave were restored. Many people still make good use of this village church and take care of the building.
In the Nieuwmarkt area, not far from the Sint Antoniesluis, is one of Amsterdam’s iconic churches: Zuiderkerk. At the beginning of the seventeenth century, the city governors took the decision to build the church, to a design by the city architect Hendrick de Keyser. It was opened in 1611 and the tower was completed three years later.
The church can be accessed from Sint Antoniesbreestraat via the gateway of the cemetery Zuiderkerkhof. This gateway was designed by De Keyser’s son-in-law, Nicholas Stone and features skulls on both sides. ‘Ordinary citizens’ were buried in the cemetery, while those of a higher status were buried in the church. Rembrandt van Rijn’s first born child, who died aged not quite three months, is also buried in the church. The painter paid four guilders for the funeral.
This Protestant church is built in the Renaissance style, with classical ornaments and forms. Construction began in 1603 but was suspended for a number of years due to lack of funds and an outbreak of the plague. The church was officially opened in 1611, although the church tower and surrounding enclosure were not completed until 1614. The last church service, a wedding, took place in 1929. The building fell into disrepair and was closed in 1970. Restoration work began in the late 1970s and the architect Hans Hagenbeek adapted the interior to a new use, with mezzanine floors and glass walls. The building was subsequently used by the city’s planning department and housing department. In recent years it has been used as a venue for events.
Further restoration of the church and tower began in 2011. The local council, Stadsdeel Centrum, commissioned Archivolt architects to draw up a plan for the desalination of the building’s exterior and the restoration of the roof covering. The restoration programme was completed in 2012, thereby ensuring the building’s continued use. (ARCAM/RB)
Between the canalside buildings on Singel, not far from Spui, are two striking slender towers. These are the towers of the Sint Franciscus Xaveriuskerk, or de Krijtberg. This neo-Gothic church succeeded a clandestine church that was established here in 1654 in three buildings, the largest of which was called ‘De Crythberg’. The two adjacent buildings were intended as a hiding place in the event of problems in this secret Catholic church, which had been banned, yet tolerated, since the Alteration. In 1835 the church building was enlarged and the original Crythberg demolished. The existing church was built between 1881 and 1883, to a design by the architect Alfred Tepe.
Alfred Tepe is regarded as the most important Dutch neo-Gothic architect after P.J.H. Cuypers. Tepe was born in Amsterdam of German parents. He went to Berlin to study architecture at the Bauakademie, after which he worked for the architect Vincenz Statz in Cologne. There he worked on the restoration and completion of Cologne Cathedral. When Tepe returned to the Netherlands several years later, he incorporated his experience in Germany in the many churches he built, most of which were in the then archbishopric of Utrecht. His neo-Gothic style remained virtually unchanged throughout his career, inspired by the ideology of the Sint Bernulphusgilde, a gild for Catholic craftsmen, architects and clerics, of which he was a member. Between 1871 and 1905, Tepe built some seventy churches.
As with his earlier design for a church in Utrecht, Sint Willibrorduskerk, the Krijtberg had to be inserted on a small plot, in this case in between canal buildings. As a result, the side aisles are just wide enough for processions and the windows are positioned as high as possible in order to maximize the penetration of daylight. The church is also provided with galleries. The interior is notable in particular, however, for its colour, which was applied in two phases. In the first phase, at the end of the nineteenth century, the sculptor Friedrich Wilhelm Mengelberg – like Tepe a member of the Sint Bernulphusgilde – was largely responsible for the gold, green, red and black in the interior, while Cuypers’ studio designed the floor, the pulpit, the Joseph Altar and the confessional boxes. In 1927, Hans Mengelberg’s interior design firm added a second colour scheme, with green, blue, yellow, violet, brown and sepia the dominant colours. (ARCAM/HD)
The Bethany Convent is situated in Barndesteeg in the city’s Wallen district. It was established here in 1450 and is one of the few remaining relics of the complex of medieval monasteries and convents in the Oudezijde area.
The numerous monasteries and convents were situated directly behind the city wall and covered the entire area between Bloedstraat, Oudezijds Achterburgwal, Oude Hoogstraat and Kloveniersburgwal. A single complex comprised four wings around an inner garden courtyard.
Bethaniënstraat and Koestraat
The convent was dedicated to St. Mary Magdalen of Bethany and was thus inhabited by ‘repentant sisters’. In 1462, some 220 women lived in the convent. One of their duties was to fatten the cows for the city’s militia – hence the name of the street, Koestraat (‘cow street’).
The convent fell into decline in the early sixteenth century. The city’s governors urgently needed land to house Amsterdam’s growing population and the Bethany Convent was in need of money. In 1506, Bethaniënstraat and Koestraat were built, thereby fragmenting the site.
After the Alteration
After the Alteration of 1578, whereby the city switched from being Roman Catholic to Protestant, the convent site was expropriated. In 1585 the order was disbanded and the site was subdivided. In 1594, the Latin School was established in the nave of the convent chapel. Houses were built on the site and an inn was opened. In the eighteenth century one of the buildings was converted into a clandestine church. Remnants of the walls on Gedempte Huidenvetterssloot, and thus the north wing in Barndesteeg, are all that remain of the convent today. The building acquired national listed status in 1970.
The building was restored at the end of last century on the initiative of Geurt Brinkgreve (1916-2005). Rooms for music students were created at the top of the complex, while the basement, with its fifteenth-century groined vaults, was largely restored to its original state. The former refectory is used for meetings, lectures and weddings – but primarily for concerts, including jazz, piano and chamber music. Bethany’s Jazz Club is now an institution.
(photograph: Jan de Wit, text: Arcam/ Maaike Behm)
Church ‘De Duif’
It takes some finding, but tucked away behind a row of trees and between a number of canalside buildings, at number 756 Prinsengracht is the church ‘De Duif’(‘the dove’). The name De Duif dates from the seventeenth century when the parish organized services in the clandestine church ‘Het Vrededuifje’ (‘the dove of peace’) in Kerkstraat. When at the end of the eighteenth century a plot became available elsewhere following a major fire, the parish of the Vrededuifje relocated to a brick building on Prinsengracht. As a result of the restructuring of the episcopal hierarchy, in the mid nineteenth century De Duif was designated one of the nine parish churches in Amsterdam. A threefold increase in the number of parishioners and the poor state of the building resulted in plans for a new, larger church. This new church building, designed by the prolific church architect Theo Molkenboer, was completed in 1857.
The exterior of the building is in a rather modest, neo-Classical style. This style is evident in the decorated façade with columns and a triangular section, the tympanum, above. A golden dove can be discerned right at the top of the facade. The interior comes as a surprise. It is richly decorated with statues and colourful wall paintings. The church has a large Smits organ, named after the renowned Brabant organ builder.
Due to declining church attendance and shortage of funds, over the course of the twentieth century the building gradually fell into disrepair. When it was threatened with demolition in the late seventies, it was occupied by a number of passionate parishioners. They went to great lengths to preserve the church until it was eventually, in1995, acquired by the Amsterdam Monuments Fund (now Stadsherstel). They purchased the building from the bishopric of Haarlem for a symbolic sum and restoration began under the direction of the architectural office Peters and Borgers. The church was taken into use in 2002. In 2006, the unique Smits organ was also restored and now has national and local listed status.
Stadsherstel is the current owner of the building. This Amsterdam firm saves distinctive and historic buildings, restores them and gives them a suitable new use. In many cases, the buildings are rented out, while Stadsherstel, as owner, is responsible for their maintenance. De Duif is currently a cultural and social centre and can be rented for various uses. On Sundays, the church is reserved for the services of the ecumenical community De Duif.
(Arcam / Yvonne de Korte)
White and light
Unique: to build a new church at a time when the reuse of redundant church buildings is becoming an increasingly serious task. In 2012, the Evangelical Brotherhood in Amsterdam Zuidoost did just that. Over the preceding years, members of the congregation had raised the necessary funds themselves. The unprecedentedly modest budget is not reflected in the final result. Here on Karspeldreef is a sturdy, white, modern church building only recognizable as such because of the tower.
One of the key components of the clients brief was the significance of light and the colour white in the liturgy. Consequently, these two aspects dominate the churchs interior. From the entrance, the ceiling increases in height to nine metres, with a view of a thirteen-metre-high white rear wall. This wall receives indirect daylight from a roof light that extends the entire width of the interior space. Outside, when the interior is illuminated, the tower also functions as a beacon. The colour white is continued in the 550 white seats in the nave and on the balcony, creating a lucid, almost abstract interior, particularly when the congregation, who also wear white, is present.
The stone chosen for the exterior is yellowish white and is laid in an irregular pattern. The area around the church has been laid out with raised greenery beds, surrounded by stone borders that can also serve as seating a continuation of the function of spaces such as the restaurant, assembly rooms and other meeting areas. On the street, the glazed front above the main entrance radiates light: a welcome sign to the neighbourhood. (ARCAM/ MB)
Islamic Funeral Pavilion
First Islamic funeral building in the Netherlands
The first Islamic funeral building in the Netherlands is situated in the cemetery De Nieuwe Ooster in Amsterdam Oost. The new building meets the demand among the Muslim community, in Amsterdam and throughout the country, for a funeral facility for Islamic burial rituals. The desire for new facilities stems in part from the growing realization among members of the two main immigrant groups, Turkish and Moroccan, that their presence in the Netherlands is permanent rather than temporary.
The departure points for the design were the existing cemetery park, which has space for 1,400 graves, and the orientation to Mecca. This orientation gives the building a closed character, which is necessary in order to ensure the desired intimacy. On the side of the square, the front elevation folds inwards, giving rise to a gesture that bids visitors to enter the building. At the rear, large windows and doors provide a view of the cemetery garden. The transitions between inside and outside and between the interior and the park are seamless.
The pavilion is slightly raised above ground level, giving it a light appearance. The exterior elevations are of Turkish travertine and have white precast concrete cornices and plinths. Next to the main entrance is a ceramic wall relief, which can be viewed from a distance and close up. The infinite continuous pattern of the relief, which is common in Islamic ornamentation, alludes to the souls infinity, because Islam believes in the resurrection of mankind on the Day of Judgement. (ARCAM/MB)