The Grote Kerk, Haarlem


The Grote Kerk church Stands on the Grote Markt in Haarlem. Originally a Catholic cathedral, following the Dutch Reformation it became a Protestant church and is dedicated to Saint Bavo. After our visit to the Molen de Adriaan we wandered though the pleasant streets of the town back to the square and decided pay the modest entry fee and take a look inside

It’s a massive Gothic building, the nave and choir covered by 16th Century wooden vaulting and the first thing that hits you when you walk inside is its height.


It’s hard to convey in a photograph just how high it is. Looking up almost made me feel dizzy!

It’s also very plain and light, the interior being painted white, giving it a quite different feeling to the Gothic Cathedrals I’m used to seeing in the UK. This is a consequence of the Beeldenstorm during the Dutch Reformation. Prior to this the church would have been decorated with paintings, stained glass and statues. However this offended the Protestants for a number of reasons. The images and statues were considered to be blasphemous and idolatry. Rich decoration was also seen as a way for rich donors to flaunt their wealth. For them places of worship should be plain and simple so after the Reformation the decorations and statues were removed from the converted Catholic churches.

The floor of the church is made up of gravestones, including that of the painter Frans Hals.

Another feature of the church is the massive organ at the end of the nave.


Installed in 1738, it covers the whole west wall of the church and is almost 30 metres high. It’s something of a tourist attraction in it’s own right and has been played by Handel and Mozart.

The interior was painted by local artist, Pieter Jansz Saenredam, his paintings emphasising the height of the building.



Today, there is some decoration in the church, with fancy chandeliers and illustrated texts on some of the massive columns, and some stained glass – although most of the windows glazed with plain glass.


and the roof above the crossing is also decorated


But overall it remains relatively plain, especially compared to Baroque Catholic and Anglo-Catholic cathedrals and churches.

4 thoughts on “The Grote Kerk, Haarlem

  1. I am packing right now…..if only, must admit I haven’t visited any Dutch Churches, even though we use to visit friends a lot. We are visiting next year so this is now on the list, again we went to Haarlem before, but somehow missed the church, how you miss something that big is, well obviously by not keeping your eyes open 🙂

  2. Pingback: Last day in Haarlem | Down by the Dougie

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