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02 March 2013

The Basilica of Saint Nicholas in Amsterdam, The Netherlands

Sint Nicolaaskerk or the Basilica of Saint Nicholas in Amsterdam, The Netherlands. All photography property of EuroTravelogue™. Unauthorized use is prohibited.
Sint Nicolaaskerk or the Basilica of Saint Nicholas in Amsterdam, The Netherlands. All photography property of EuroTravelogue™. Unauthorized use is prohibited. 

Upon landing in Amsterdam on my tour with Viking River Cruises last year, I had the afternoon to while away in the city centre. First order of the day upon my arrival from the port was to meet up finally with longtime virtual friend Keith from VelvetEscape.com who sacrificed a few hours of his day to take me on a walking tour through Amsterdam. It was a wonderful afternoon full of the sightseeing and great conversation while we got to know each other a little better outside the usual constraints of 140 characters. Thank you once again Keith for your company!


Saint Nicholas in Amsterdam, The Netherlands.
Saint Nicholas in Amsterdam, The Netherlands. 

Our first stop and the subject for this article is the Basilica of Saint Nicholas or known locally as Sint Nicolaaskerk, one of Amsterdam's main Roman Catholic churches located opposite to Central Station and dedicated to the city's patron saint of seafarers—it's no wonder given Amsterdam's rich maritime history. When we reached the church, now a basilica after Vatican officially raised its status to "basilica minor" on December 8, 2012, I found this magnificent façade betraying its 19th-century construction because it looks as though it could have been standing for a few centuries. Up till now, most of the churches and cathedrals I have visited date back to medieval times so I was curious to see what this relatively recent addition to my church/cathedral repertoire held in store for me.


Bas-relief sculpture of Christ and His four Evangelists in the center of the Rose window. Hovering overhead, is the statue of Saint Nicholas himself.
Bas-relief sculpture of Christ and His four Evangelists in the center of the Rose window. Hovering overhead, is the statue of Saint Nicholas himself.

Designed by Adrianus Bleijs who broke with the tradition of designing in the neo-Gothic style prevalent in the 19th century, Basilica Saint Nicholas blends neo-Baroque and neo-Renaissance elements in this striking edifice completed in 1887 after only three years of construction. The portal and western façade features two towers with an exquisite rose window tucked in between whose center features a bas-relief sculpture, constructed in 1886, that depicts Christ and His four Evangelists. Hovering overhead, is the statue of Saint Nicholas himself also created in 1886.


Soaring vault and cavernous interior of Saint Nicholas in Amsterdam.
Soaring vault and cavernous interior of Saint Nicholas in Amsterdam.

Close-up shot of the altar and the heavenly stained-glass windows that bathe the apse in colorful light.
Close-up shot of the altar and the heavenly stained-glass windows that bathe the apse in colorful light.

Inside, behold the soaring ornate vault whose arches are supported by cylindrical and squared-off marble pillars. The overall warm tones of this church contrast strongly with the stone-cold medieval predecessors I have visited in my European travels. Actually, I find this warmth quite inviting and welcoming.


Saint Mary Chapel to the left of the nave.
Saint Mary Chapel to the left of the nave.

Saint Joseph chapel to the right of the nave.
Saint Joseph chapel to the right of the nave.

Flanking the Nave and the apse are two chapels dedicated to Mary on the left and Joseph on the right. Look above the altar and you'll see the gilded crown of Maximilian I often seen throughout Amsterdam, and actually a symbol that dates back to 1489 when the Holy Roman Emperor granted Amsterdam the right to use his imperial crown in the city's coat of arms.


Above the altar, you'll see the gilded crown of Maximilian I that adorns Amsterdam's coat of arms seen throughout the city.
Above the altar, you'll see the gilded crown of Maximilian I that adorns Amsterdam's coat of arms seen throughout the city.

All of the sculptures on the altar and the chapels are the creation of Pierre Elysee van den Bossche between 1889 and 1892. He also designed the pulpit pictured below.


The pulpit inside Saint Nicholas was designed by Pierre Elysee van den Bossche at the end of the 19th century.
The pulpit inside Saint Nicholas was designed by Pierre Elysee van den Bossche at the end of the 19th century.

Throughout Saint Nicholas, you will find magnificent paintings covering just about every square meter of wall from the vault to the floor. As you make your way down the Nave, seek out the 14 "Stations of the Cross" by Jan Dunselman from 1891 to 1898. A most interesting fact about this particular series is that Dunselman actually used the faces of parishioners as his models so perhaps today's citizens of Amsterdam may find an ancestor or two among the many painted faces.

Along the left transept, paintings commemorate the Miracle of Amsterdam or Stille Omgang (Silent Procession) celebrations surrounding the miracle of the Eucharist that occurred in 1345 when it was given to a dying man upon receiving his last rights and then tossed into the fire. Miraculously, it and the arms that retrieved it survived the burning fires unscathed.

To the right, a recounting of the Martyrs of Gorkum—19 Catholic figures who were hanged on July 9, 1572, during the religious wars that swept through Europe at that time.


Highly ornate interior of the dome rises 190 feet toward the heavens.
Highly ornate interior of the dome rises 190 feet toward the heavens. 

Once you arrive at the intersection of the transept and nave, look to the heavens to behold the exquisitely embellished dome rising 190 feet and bathed in heavenly light from the stained-glass windows encircling the octagonal tower and lantern.


The 19th-century Sauer organ, the largest German organ from that time in all of the Netherlands, is the highlight of the annual International Organ Concert Series held every summer.

Turn your glance back toward the portal and rose window and you'll find the 19th-century Sauer organ, the largest German organ from that time in all of the Netherlands and the highlight of the annual International Organ Concert Series held every summer. World-renowned organists from around the world gather here in Amsterdam to listen and play this musical treasure. At the bottom of this article, be sure to visit the Saint Nicholas Music Foundation for all the upcoming concerts and performances.

That's a wrap on our tour of Saint Nicolaaskerk or the Basilica of Saint Nicholas in Amsterdam and I hope you stop by the next time you plan a holiday in the Netherlands.

Additional Reading:

10 comments:

  1. Gorgeous art and architecture. Interesting stories that the painting have to tell, too. I hadn't heard of the Miracle of Amsterdam before although we learned about a lot of miracles in Catholic school. Of course, that was quite some time ago! :)

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    1. Hi there and thank you so much for your comment! I too, have never heard of the Miracle of Amsterdam so I just had to share it in this article. And, I remember lots of lessons as well in catechism and CCD classes--many, many moons ago. ; ) Thank you again!

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  2. You're most welcome Jeff. It was great to finally meet you and show you a bit of Amsterdam. Love this post & the photos are absolutely stunning!

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    1. Hey there Keith and thank you so MUCH for stopping by and for your kind compliments. Couldn't have done it without you my friend! Thx again.

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  3. Wonderful photos Jeff. Having spent a lot of time in The Netherlands (my father is Dutch), it was great to see such beautiful pics.

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    1. Thank you so much Christine for your kind words and stopping by to comment! You are lucky to have spent so much time in the Netherlands...I wish I could too! I love it there!!!

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  4. Thank you for all the beautiful pictures and your commentary. I am visiting this Basilica on Sunday, and I wanted a sneak peek. Thank you, thank you.
    Marci

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    1. Hi there Marci and thank you so much for all of your kind words! I hope you have a fabulous time on Sunday and take your time to enjoy all there is to see here. Stop back and let me know how it went. Thanks again!

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  5. Ive been to AMS a few times and not seen this beautiful building - will add it to my list next time I'm there!

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    1. HI there Scott and thanks so much for sharing your thoughts. Yes, the next time you're in town, seek out the cathedral. It's diagonally across from train station (to the left when you exit station).

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Thank you for stopping by and sharing your thoughts!