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The locals themselves wonder whether it is a museum, a house, a church, or perhaps a small chapel hidden in an attic. The Museum Amstelkring is certainly one of the city’s most curious.
Just a few yards from the Oude Kerk, although the museum is one of Amsterdam’s smallest, it is definitely one of the most attractive.
Just by looking at the facade of the building, you would never guess what is hidden in what looks like a traditional early seventeenth-century merchant’s house.
The history of this unique house-museum began in 1661, when it was purchased by a wealthy merchant called Jan Hartman. The property comprises the house that faces the canal and two houses at the rear. Refurbishment work joined the third floors of the two houses at the back and created a kind of attic, which also faces the canal.
The Catholic owner decided to convert this attic into a private and secret chapel, as only Protestants were allowed to hold public services at the time. This small chapel was consecrated to the patron saint of Amsterdam, Saint Nicholas. You might be interested to know that the small chapel was given the name “Our Lord in the Attic” because of its location in the house.
The need to hold Catholic services in private can also be seen in the church altar, which is a very practical, partially fold-up item. In the event the Protestants arrived, the altar would disappear behind a partition at lighting speed. It is a true work of small-format religious engineering.
The small church remained active until 1887, the year in which a larger church in the city, opposite the Central Station, was consecrated to Saint Nicholas.
It was at this time that this stately home’s history as a church came to an end and in just one year it became a museum. In fact, to prevent the house from being demolished, it was bought by a group of Catholic devotees from the city. Just a year later, “Our Lord in the Attic” was opened to the public as a museum.
If you decide to visit this small monument, which is the second oldest museum after the Rijksmuseum, you will not only find the hidden chapel in the attic. It has a much broader interest.
As a stately home, it features some truly luxurious seventeenth- and eighteenth-century salons. One of these, on the first floor, was renovated by Jan Hartman when he bought the house. With exquisite taste, he decorated the room in which he would receive his guests in full Classical luxury, thereby manifesting his status.
You can also see the priest’s chamber and a collection of sacred art, which includes religious objects and paintings, and fine items of silver.
There is one final detail of which you should take note: if you are planning a religious wedding and are looking for somewhere really special, this church provides such a service. However, now you know how small “Our Lord in the Attic” is ... you should think about limiting the number of guests!
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