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Through My Lens: Pieterskerk of Leiden

Today is Palm Sunday, and I’m posting a photo of the Pieterskerk in Leiden. Dedicated to Saint Peter, this church dates back to the early fifteenth century.

Pieterskerk has an American connection; it’s where the Pilgrims worshipped for over a decade before they sailed away on the Mayflower in 1620. Some years before that, the Spanish lay siege to Leiden from May to October of 1574. When the siege was over, the citizens of Leiden held a service of thanksgiving, where they ate herring, white bread, and hutspot (a mash of potato, carrot, and onion). Some think that elements of this thanksgiving celebration, which became an annual affair, were carried to North America by the Pilgrims.

Which means we have the Dutch to thank for our custom of eating mashed potatoes at Thanksgiving.

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Through My Lens: Sint Janskerk and Sint Servaas of Maastricht

For the Fifth Sunday of Lent, I’m posting a photo of the two churches that border the Vrijthof, which is the main square of Maastricht.

The church on the left is Sint Janskerk, a Gothic church dating back to the seventeenth century. Dedicated to John the Baptist, the distinctive red tower of this Protestant church was originally painted with ox blood (ugh), but these days, they just use regular paint.

On the right is Sint Servaas, a Romanesque church dating back to the eleventh century. The basilica is dedicated to Saint Servatius, first bishop of Maastricht and its patron saint. He died in 384 and is buried in the crypt. Sint Servaas is the Netherlands’ oldest church.

Through My Lens: Inside the Bovenkerk of Kampen

Today is the Fourth Sunday of Lent. I’m posting this photo from inside Kampen’s Bovenkerk for a couple of reasons.

Reason # 1 is because it was inside this church, listening to this organ, where I first fell in love with the music of Johann Sebastian Bach.

And Reason # 2? Because today is one of Bach’s birthdays. I say “one of” because apparently the man had two depending on whether you are looking at a calendar in the Old (Julian) Style or the New (Gregorian) Style.

This organ is one of three in the Bovenkerk. It has four manuals and 3200 pipes, the oldest of which date back to the early seventeenth century.

There was a music lesson was going on just before I took this photo. The student was up above at the console behind the pipes, while the teacher was down below, chowing down on a sandwich as he hollered out his feedback. I felt sorry for the student, but was so happy I got to hear the music.

Through My Lens: Bovenkerk of Kampen

For the Third Sunday of Lent, I’m posting a photo of the Church of St. Nicholas of Kampen. St. Nicholas is the patron saint of seafarers and many churches in the Netherlands are dedicated to him. (In the seventeenth century, this tiny republic along the North Sea had the world’s largest naval fleet.) The church is more commonly known as the Bovenkerk (Upper Church) and it gives the town of Kampen its distinctive skyline.

Archeological evidence points to a church standing on this spot since the early thirteenth century. A Romanesque church was built first and probably in use for about a century before it was replaced by a much larger Gothic building.

As far as Gothic cathedrals go, it is a fairly simple design, but that it was built at all speaks to the influence and power that the town of Kampen had as a trading town on the edge of what was then the Zuider Zee. Some form of a tower has existed since the building was first erected, but its present form and height dates from the nineteenth century.

Through My Lens: Oude Kerk of Delft

The oldest church in Delft is the Oude Kerk (Old Church), which was founded in 1246. The tower was completed in 1350 and has a lean of about two metres, although I did not notice this when I visited the church about eighteen months ago.

Both of Delft’s churches are known for their stained-glass windows, all of which were destroyed when a gunpowder depot exploded in Delft in 1654. Known as the Delft Thunderclap, the explosion destroyed much of the city. The stained-glass windows of the Oude Kerk were not restored completely until the twentieth century.

Most of the 27 windows in the Oude Kerk depict Bible stories, but a few are more nationalistic, which is understandable given the city’s long association with the Dutch Royal Family. The Liberation Window celebrates the end of World War II and the liberation of the Netherlands from Nazi occupation. The Wilhelmina Window celebrates the reign of Queen Wilhelmina from 1890 to 1948.

It is the latter window that is my photo choice for today, the Second Sunday of Lent. At the centre of the window is Queen Wilhelmina, who is the longest-reigning Dutch monarch. The figures at the bottom represent, from left to right, sterkte (strength), geduld (patience), hoop (hope), geloof (faith), liefde (love), gerechtigheid (justice), and wijsheid (wisdom).

Through My Lens: Nieuwe Kerk of Delft

Once again, it’s the Season of Lent and I have more photographs to show you of the many Dutch churches I visited some eighteen months ago. For today, the First Sunday of Lent, here is one of the Nieuwe Kerk (New Church) of Delft.

It’s called the Nieuwe Kerk because it was built about 150 years after the Oude Kerk (Old Church), which is located a few canals over.

There is a story of how it came to be that a new church was built in Delft. Way back in 1351, a man named Jan Col shared some food with a beggar named Symon who was hanging out in the Grote Markt (Great Square) of Delft. At that very moment, the two men saw the same vision of a golden church.

Symon died soon after, but Jan Col continued to have the same vision for another 30 years. He began a campaign to have a church built on the spot where he and Symon first had their vision.

Eventually, the town burghers gave in. Construction began in 1393, and the church was completed in the mid-seventeenth century. There have been several towers — the first was destroyed by fire and the second by lightning. The current tower was completed in 1872 and is the second-tallest church tower in the Netherlands.

Oh, and those visions Jan Col had for 30 years? Turns out they were will-o’-the-wisps.

Happy Easter!

Ceiling of the Grote Kerk, Haarlem, August 2017

Through My Lens: Grote Kerk of Haarlem

It’s Palm Sunday, and I’m moving on from Amsterdam to Haarlem. This is the Grote Kerk, or Great Church. Dedicated to Saint Bavo of Gent, it is also known as St.-Bavokerk and has been Haarlem’s main church since the fifteenth century. It is enormous and dominates Haarlem’s skyline.

I like this photo because it shows all the goings on in the square outside the church. (This is actually the quiet side of the church — the Grote Markt, or Great Square, is on the other side and is much larger.) All the goings on include two of Holland’s national pastimes: cycling and afternoon coffee, which is always served with a tiny koekje (cookie) or chocolate. My friend and I parked ourselves at the very café you see in this photo in order to fuel up before we cycled the 20 kilometres back to Amsterdam.

Through My Lens: Inside the Oude Kerk

I chose this photo for today, the Fifth Sunday of Lent, because I love how the different features of Amsterdam’s Oude Kerk are visible in one shot.

There are the tall pillars, of course, And the pointed Gothic arches and windows.

What’s unique to the Oude Kerk is its wooden ceiling, which miraculously survived fires that swept through Amsterdam in 1421 and again in 1452 (after which wooden buildings were banned from the city). If you look closely, you can see the remains of the paintings commissioned by wealthy patrons.

And then there are the miniature ships. The Oude Kerk is steps away from the IJ and was traditionally a port church where the seamen came to pray for safety. The little ships are a testament to that history.

Through My Lens: Oude Kerk

My photo choice for the Fourth Sunday of Lent is Amsterdam’s Oude Kerk.

With Oude Kerk being Dutch for “old church,” this church is, as you’d expect, Amsterdam’s oldest. At 800 years, it is also the city’s oldest building. I wish I had thought to cross the canal to get enough distance for a proper photo because this one shows only a small part of the building, which has been extended many times since it was consecrated in 1306. Those are houses attached to the church — houses attached to the outer walls of a church seems to have been a common practice in the Netherlands.

The Oude Kerk stands in the heart of De Wallen — Amsterdam’s red-light district — which can take you by surprise if you’re not expecting it. Every tourist has a story about their first encounter with the red-lit windows in which the prostitutes stand. Mine was many years ago while on a walking tour of old Amsterdam with my much older, much more conservative Dutch cousin. She wanted to show me the Oude Kerk, but all I was noticing were the windows of women facing the church.

Which I pretended I hadn’t noticed. As difficult as that was.