Oude Kerk

Oudekerksplein 23
Rosse Buurt
Tien minuten lopen vanaf Centraal Station Amsterdam
Guus Kemme (red.), Amsterdam Architecture - A guide, Amsterdam, 1996.

Oldest parish church in Amsterdam

Oude Kerk is the oldest building in Amsterdam. It was probably dedicated to Saint Nicholas in 1306 by Guy van Avennes, Bishop of Utrecht. The church, which until the Alteration of 1578 was called Sint Nicolaaskerk, is an example of Dutch brick Gothic. The construction is light, with wooden barrel vaulting and tall Gothic pointed windows. As a result, it was possible to build a relatively tall building on a limited area.

The church has a rich building history. In an early building phase, an original wooden chapel was replaced by a stone hall church. After 1300, the then narrow three-aisled stone church, with a rectangular choir and the core of the existing tower, was altered into a hall church with three aisles of equal width and height and an enlarged choir. In the centuries that followed, the church was enlarged on numerous occasions. The side aisles were extended and a five-sided ambulatory was added. Between 1380 and 1412 Sint Joriskapel (Saint George’s Chapel) was built on the north side and between 1450 and 1460 Sint Sebastiaanskapel (Saint Sebastian’s Chapel) was built on the south side. The resulting cruciform church was later negated by the construction of more new chapels. The present tower dates from 1565.

The church was closed in 1951 because it was in danger of collapse due to problems with the foundations. Between 1955 and 1979 the church was restored and this was followed by further restoration work between 1994 and 1998, under the architect J. Van Stigt. Archaeological research, for example, into the ceiling paintings and the stained-glass windows, took place at the same time as the restoration. During repair work carried out in order to give the church a new use, the buildings around the church, which date from the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, were partly reconstructed. Catholic features from before the Reformation are the choir stalls (1480-90) and the stained-glass windows in the Mariakapel (Lady Chapel) (1550). Oude Kerk now functions as an exhibition space. (ARCAM/OD)