Museum Ons’ Lieve Heer op Solder

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The  Oudezijds Voorburgwal is a canal in the Old Town of Amsterdam – the area known as the Red Light District. Despite the presence of the “coffee shops” and some seedy premises, it’s lined with historic buildings. One of them, a typical merchant’s canal house built in 1630 contains a surprise.  There’s a church up in the loft.

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Amsterdam is a Protestant city and in the 17th Century Catholic worship was forbidden. Catholics had to  celebrate their rituals in secret, behind  closed doors. In some cases they arranged for the creation of hidden places of worship and this was one of them. It was constructed in the loft of the house owned by a merchant, Jan Hartman, who had moved to Amsterdam from Germany to make his fortune. In fact, it extends over the adjacent two houses. It served as a Parish Church from 1663 until 1887, when the nearby St. Nicolaaskerk was built.

Today the house is the Museum Ons’ Lieve Heer op Solder (Museum Our Lord in the Attic), and it’s the oldest musuem in Amsterdam after the Rijksmuseum (It opened to the public in 1888).

The bottom part of the house has been preserved as a typical 17th Century Amsterdam merchant’s house. On the first floor there’s a grand hall, a reception room fitted out to display the owner’s wealth and status to visitors.

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The room at the front of the house recreated typical living quarters, with table

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chair and stove

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and box bed in the alcove

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Ascending the stairs up to the next floor and we were in a church large enough for 150 worshippers

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with an organ

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Lady chapel

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and confession box

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There were good views over the old town from the top floor

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The building is being renovated and a new entrance being constructed via a tunnel from the building across the alley. We were able to watch English craftsmen installing new rush matting

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Returning to the ground floor, we were able to see the Priest’s living quarters

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and the kitchen

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It isn’t credible that a church with a congregation of 150 right in the centre of the old town (they couldn’t all sneak in without anyone noticing) fitted out with an organ (not exactly a quiet instrument!) was really secret. In practice, the Protestant authorities tended to be tolerant of private Catholic worship as long as it was kept hidden from public view. And that was certainly the case with “Our Lord in the Attic”.

An interesting visit that gave us a glimpse of how people lived in the 17th Century and an insight into religious life and also the way the Dutch can turn a blind eye to activities that are ostensibly illegal – something still evident in the streets close by the Museum.

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6 thoughts on “Museum Ons’ Lieve Heer op Solder

    • It is relatively off the radar at the moment but becoming more well known. I think it is definitely the sort of place you like. My photos don’t do it justice.

      • A little different from the usual churches you visit – at least on the outside. 😄 When we were in the church you would never have guessed you were in the loft if you didn’t already know it.

  1. As they, didn’t expect that, wow, will have to have a look at that the next time we are there, just really amazing. Also your photos have done a grand job in showing us what we are missing 🙂

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