Look out for the beautifully painted organ panels, featuring Old Testament scenes by Gerard de Lairesse.
Just round the corner from Anne Frank’s house is Westerkerk. At its completion in 1631, it was one of the earliest purpose-built Protestant churches: Amsterdam’s Oude Kerk and Nieuwe Kerk were originally built for Roman Catholic worship before the ‘Alteration,’ the bloodless Calvinist coup of 1578, saw them converted.
At a time of swift population growth, Westerkerk was constructed to provide for the wealthy area around Prinsengracht, the outermost of Amsterdam’s ring of canals. The church was commissioned by the city of Amsterdam, so the city’s arms appear frequently in its decoration. Its simple interior is a pleasant sanctuary, always filled with light as there are no nearby buildings to obstruct its 36 large windows; it also boasts a truly impressive (and rather Popish) 17th century organ above the entrance.
Most famous, however, is the Westertoren, the 87 metre church tower which is Amsterdam’s tallest. This is an ornate structure, topped with the Imperial Crown of Austria of Maximillian I and containing 51 tuned bells in a carillon, beneath which sit brightly painted clock faces. The tower was visible from Anne Frank’s window, and she mentions its chiming fondly in her diary. The tower is open to visitors during the summer, and offers a fantastic view over the Dutch capital.
Westerkerk’s other claim to fame is as the final resting place of Rembrandt, master of the Golden Age. Sadly, the location of his grave is unknown, his remains having been removed and destroyed after 20 years: the great artist was buried anonymously as a poor man in a kerkgraf (a grave owned by the church).
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