One of my favourite churches in Amsterdam - because of its scale and its European-ness. The church is one of the first things you see when you step out of Central Station and could do with a good clean. The doors are usually locked, as are most churches in this country but you might be lucky.
As the patron saint of seafarers, Sint Nicolaas was an important figure in Amsterdam - giving his name to this grand church among many, as well as to The Netherlands principal gift giving day - Sinter Klaas on December 5.
Finished in 1887, the Nicolaaskerk -- designed by the architect A C Bleys -- replaced some of the clandestine catholic churches around the city which had been set up when Amsterdam became officially protestant in 1578 and Catholics had to practise their religion in private. Waning congregations and a radical reorganisation of the Catholic parishes in Amsterdam forced its closure in 1971 but support from the Diocese of Harlem and the city authorities, it was kept open for public worship. several years ago but following widescale protests the church was saved from demolition.
Now with its exterior upkeep neglected, the church looks rather grim and forbidding from outside, although its two towers with baroque crownings and dome over the cruciform dominate the skyline around the old harbour. Outside in the middle of the rose window is a statue of St Nicolaas with staff in hand watching over his flock.
Inside, the church takes on a monumental character with its square pillars and coffered ceiling arches. It is dimly lit because the side aisles have no windows and the windows in the dome were bricked up. The wall friezes depicting the Stations of the Cross and the series of 16 paintings following the (legendary) life of St Nicholass are by Jan Dunselman (1863-1931) who spent some 40 years providing the building with paintings top to bottom. The organ was built by W Sauer in 1889 and is well-preserved example of the late-romantic organ style.