During the day the Red Light District is rather peacefully asleep, giving its space to the crowds of tourists penetrating the town in the search of amazing things to see and do. The labyrinth of water canals and countless number of bridges resemble Venice and the best way to admire it is to get on a boat and let the skilled boatmen show you around. Then walk, trying to avoid extensive bike traffic, from one side of the canal to another, admiring high and equally old buildings with the stairs so narrow that any furniture you can find in them today has to be lifted up and delivered through the wide windows with the use of a hook attached to the roof.
Amsterdam has always been full of controversy. Even today – the hidden in the 17 century canal house church not only adjoined the Red Lights District area but is sitting in the middle of it! When I was visiting Rome and recently Bologna and Venice, the churches over there were surprising with theirs lavish insides, presenting themselves with a rather boring and predictable insides. In Amsterdam this is taken even a step further.
For the Catholics a lot has changed in 1578. The country became Protestant and the Catholic churches were not welcomed in the public space anymore. But the Dutch were always highly tolerant and as long as people were not trying to force their views against the “obligatory” once, anyone was allowed to worship like they wanted in their own houses.
A wealthy merchant by name of Jan Hartman sized the opportunity and came up with an ingenious idea of building the church in his own house. He bought a canal house plus two houses behind it and build a church in the attic, using the rest of the property as a living quarters and storage space.
When we talk about his church we are not talking about a small room in the attic, with a small altar and few chairs for the family to worship together, we are talking about huge chapel occupying the attic belonging not only to the mail canal house, but to two more houses adjoined together. We are taking about perhaps one of the biggest churches hidden away from the public eyes, not recognizable from the outside completely. That is what taking the “I do not care about the outside” attitude to the next level means!
After crossing the door you will find yourself inside the typical canal house, with typical for that period furniture and floors. The stairs are not taking much space and you can easily guess why the possibility of taking furniture upstairs in a usual way was simply not possible and why the huge windows were essential. Plus the hook of course.
The church itself is charmingly pink and surprisingly this colour suites it quiet well. Almost 150 people could be seated during the mass, praying together hidden from the public eye. Lavishly decorated in the Dutch classical style the church shows of the marble columns and beautiful painting of the Baptism of Christ (1716) by Jacob de Wit. The gallery allowed looking from the top towards amazing alter, creating a sacred space available to the few chose once.
We were quiet lucky to be there practically on our own, having a great opportunity to wander around not only the church but the living quarters too. The rooms were wide and full of colours, with extremely high ceilings and unique huge windows, allowing bigger furniture to be lifted up and fitted as necessary. Lavishly decorated drawing room was a centre of jealousy to anyone who was visiting Jan Hartman and cleverly build bed allowed comfortable and warm sleep during the winter months.
The hidden church is one of the place which can take your soul away, amazingly squeezed and at the same time making the best use of the space provided by Hartman. The place is quirky and beautiful, and the colour chosen by the owner of the house equally surprising. We left the space feeling that the pink is a new black for the churches interiors!
How to find a church, when is it open and how much are the tickets – head straight to the source here! And remember – it is free to see if you have your city card handy.