An undervalued gem. The Amstelkring or Ons Lieve Heer Op Solder (Our Dear Lord in the Attic) is a 17th century merchant's home in the red light district with a secret Catholic church in the attic. If you have just two hours to visit an Amsterdam attraction, this should be it. Apart from the church, there is a splendid drawing room.
Oudezijds Voorburgwal 40
Although public services were banned by law in 1587, Catholics (and Lutherians) were still able to meet for worship because the city authorities were more concerned with business than clamping down on religion and dozens of huiskerkjes (house churches) sprang up in attics and warehouse all over the city. Turning a blind eye exists to this day, of course, with the Dutch policy on drugs, for example.
Religious freedom came to Holland with the arrival of the French in 1795, and the secret churches were replaced by purpose built ones.
Ons Lieve Heer served the catholic community of the Oude Zijde until the St Nicolaaskerk was finished in 1887. Built by the merchant Jan Hartman between 1661 and 1663, it covers three houses, the house on the canal itself and two smaller houses behind. It was orginally known as Het Hart after its builder, then Het Haantje, a corruption of the Heintje Hoeksteeg where the entrance was. From 1675 it was called "St Nicholas inside the Fortification", making it the second church (after the Oude Kerk) to be dedicated to St Nicholas in the city.
The present front room was the orginal entrance all but was altered in the 18th century into a Dutch version of Louis XV style. The small back room is still 17th century in character, although opening in the side wall leading to the stairs was only built after the house became a museum.
On the first floor is the drawing room (Sael), one of the best examples of a 17th century room in the city with the original painting, The Presentation in the Temple, still placed over the walnut chimney piece. Opposite the fireplace is a wall cupboard, once used as a bed. The brass chandelier comes from another clandestine catholic church. Continuing up the church stairs is a small landing the visitor gets a glimpse of the priests (tiny) box bed. There was a resident priest in the church since 1663.
The church itself consists of the top three floors of the block, knocked through into one and had its own entrance in the alley behind. The structure as it is today dates from around 1735 when the old altar was replaced and the openings in the uper floors, which had been made simply to allow worshippers to hear the services, were extended. Things to look out for include the foldaway lecturn which be tucked behind wooden panels in order to save space. The painting of the Baptism of Christ above the altar is one of three interchangeable altarpieces by Jacob de Wit. The two angels in front of the columns date from the 18th century and the silver sanctury lamp was made in 1656.
Leaving the church itself, narrow stairs take you through the sacristy, past the confessional and into a small room full of devotional objects, including a 1345 print of the Miracle of Amsterdam, several cases of church silver, and books on morals. One of the stranger exhibits is a tiny coffin-shaped silver box which used to contain consecrated earth. At the time catholics could not be buried in consecrated ground, so a few scoopfuls of earth with scattered over a dead person before their coffin was closed down.
Today the church is still used for weddings and concerts.