History of Westerkerk Amsterdam

While several old churches in Amsterdam as Oude Kerk, were originally built by Catholics and were transformed to Protestant religion during The Reformation in 1578, the Westerkerk - English: Western Church - has been one of the first important churches built by the Protestants. In the beginning of the 17th C. new city canals were built and new construction land parcels formed by Amsterdam municipality. Inhabitants of the new city areas in North and West of Amsterdam, needed places of worship, so the decision had been taken to build two big churches – they were later called Noorderkerk and Westerkerk.

Designed by Hendrick de Keyser in the style of Renaissance on the plan of double Greek cross, the Westerkerk was built by his son Pieter. The construction started during the completion of another construction by Hendrick de Keyser - the Noorderkerk, built 1620 - 1623. The Westerkerk opened for worshipers on Whitsunday in spring of 1631, but the construction ended later - in 1638. Today the Westerkerk remains the largest Protestant church in the Netherlands.

Westerkerk Tower

The bell tower of the Westerkerk - Dutch: Westertoren, has been completed in 1637. The construction of the tall Westerkerk Tower on dumpy Amsterdam grounds was a real architecture marvel. Its two top sections were built from wood, plated with a thick lead, painted to look like a sandstone, while the section below them was built from stone. The rest of Westerkerk Tower was built from brick. The Austrian Imperial crown at the top of the Westerkerk Tower comes from the shield of Amsterdam – it has been added to it by Maximilian I in 1489.
In 2006, the original blue colour of its cupola has been restored. For the full hundred years, since 1906, it has been painted golden-yellow to celebrate Rembrandt’s Birthday 400 years anniversary.

Burial place

Since 1620 there was a small cemetery outside the church, but it existed for a short time only, and later - until 1865, people were buried in the church’s crypt – a space below the floor of the church. Rembrandt and his son Titus were among people buried here.

Queens marriage

While today the Nieuwekerk is the most important church of the city, where royal inaugurations and royal weddings take place, the marriage of HM Queen Beatrix with German Prince Claus von Amsberg took place on March 10, 1966 in the Westerkerk.

Westerkerk organ

Dutch Protestants of the 16th and 17th centuries resented organ music played in the church. They believed that services should be simple and sober. Organ music was seen as ‘papal’, while the Protestants rejected the power of Rome. Only the biggest and most important churches were allowed to build organs.

Fifty years after the church opened - in 1681, the decision was taken to order an organ for Westerkerk from Roelof Barentszon Duyschot. On the First Christmas Day in 1686, the Westerkerk organ played for the first time. At the time, people of Amsterdam enthusiastically received the music and the organ played three times on Sunday and on some weekdays, during the church’s services.

Today, the concerts of organ music with the Westerkerk choir and an orchestra, belong to the musical feasts of the city.