Saturday, May 17, 2014

Our Lord in the Attic



In the years following the Alteration in 1578 when power was transferred from Catholics to Protestants, an ordinance was passed in Amsterdam prohibiting Catholics from openly celebrating the mass. Jan Hartman, a rich merchant, bought property on Oudezijds Voorburgwal in 1661 and started rebuilding the three houses on that property to accommodate a hidden church on its top floors. 

View of the organ from the first gallery

Ludovicus Reiniers, a priest, acquired the property in 1739 and kept the church open for worship. Our Lord in the Attic remained the parish church of Catholics living in the area for over 200 years until St. Nicholas Church (in front of the Central Station) was consecrated in 1887. Soon after a group of Catholics bought the property to save it from demolition. It was reopened in 1888 as a museum, one of the oldest museums in Amsterdam. Masses are still celebrated on first Sundays of the month from October to May at 11 a.m. (Check their website for dates of masses.)

The ceiling and second gallery

It's literally a breath of fresh air to visit this secret church as there were few visitors when we were there during Easter break. Unlike other destinations in Amsterdam where you have to contend with the crowds to get a good view of an icon or a painting, to find a seat in an outdoor café and to have room enough to walk the familiar streets without a bicyclist careening towards you, it's a breeze to slowly walk through the various rooms and intimately connect with this 17th century canal house. If only walls could talk.

The confessional

Aside from the church, there are interesting rooms to see including the imposing drawing room of Jan Hartman 's family, the bedroom with a bed in a cozy closet (to keep the cold out), the tiled kitchen, the Chapel of Mary, the confessional and vestuary. Typical of canal houses of the 17th century, visitors must climb and descend on steep stairs, one careful step at a time. I was particularly impressed with a well preserved quadriptych of the Resurrection which unfortunately was neither properly identified nor part of the audio tour.

The Ressurection (not sure of the title)

Our Lord in the Attic is in the heart of the red light district though this specific area has now been "gentrified". There are more restaurants and cafés in the neighborhood and no obvious "red light" businesses. The museum is open Mondays through Saturdays from 10 am to 5 pm and Sundays from 1 pm to 5 pm. The entrance fee is €8 as of this writing and this includes an audio guide. Large bags are not allowed in the museum and must be left in lockers in the reception area. The address is Oudezijds Voorburgwal 40 and is a short walk from the Damrak. For more info check this: www.opsolder.nl.

Cozy 17th c bed


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Images by TravelswithCharie



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