The church dates back to the Middle Ages; it was consecrated in 1409. Since then it has formed a stage for local and national history, with leading roles for kings and queens, writers, free-spirited townspeople, and the great figures who lie buried here. It is a treasure house of medieval secrets, royal traditions, Catholic devotion, and Protestant iconoclasm.
A ‘New’ Church?
De Nieuwe Kerk (The New Church) may seem like a strange name for a fifteenth-century building, but it distinguishes this church from the thirteenth-century Oude (Old) Kerk. As the city expanded rapidly, the church on the ‘old side’ of Damrak (then part of the Amstel river) could not handle the growing numbers of churchgoers. It soon became necessary to build a second parish church on the ‘new side’ of the river. A leading citizen, Willem Eggert, offered his orchard as a building site. In 1408, the new house of worship was approved by the bishop, and a year later it was dedicated to St Catherine.
De Nieuwe Kerk: a meeting place
For centuries, De Nieuwe Kerk served many purposes. Not only a place of worship and a cemetery, it was also used as a commercial exchange, a musical venue for the city’s walking concerts, and an auditorium for award and graduation ceremonies. For all these events, De Nieuwe Kerk offered a large, stately space in the heart of the city.
An elegant new interior
The church fell prey to a series of three devastating fires. It was hardest hit in the winter of 1645, when its roof was consumed by a sea of flames that left the building a charred ruin. The people of Amsterdam joined together to restore the church and give its interior new lustre. The highlights from this restoration include:
- the impressive pulpit
- the organ, now the largest historic organ in the Netherlands
- the brass choir screen, a true masterpiece
- richly decorated funerary monuments, such as the tomb of Admiral Michiel de Ruyter
For more information on the interior of De Nieuwe Kerk, click here.
By the mid-twentieth century, De Nieuwe Kerk was in need of serious repair. From 1959 to 1980, it underwent the largest restoration in its history. The Protestant Church, which owned the building, could no longer afford to maintain and manage it. In 1979, a national foundation was established to save De Nieuwe Kerk, by making it a venue for exhibitions, national gatherings, and cultural events. Now, once again, De Nieuwe Kerk is a meeting place in the heart of city life.
King Willem-Alexander and Queen Máxima
On 2 February 2002, De Nieuwe Kerk was the stage of the wedding service of Willem-Alexander, then Prince of Orange, and Máxima Zorreguieta. Millions of television viewers in the Netherlands and around the world watched this magical event. On 30 April 2013 Willem-Alexander was officially inaugurated as king. For more on the church’s royal connections and for a brief timeline of De Nieuwe Kerk, click here.