Skip to main content

Amsterdam's Westerkerk


The Westerkerk, or West Church, is one of Amsterdam's best-known churches, and the largest in the Netherlands ever built specifically for Protestants. It's also a remarkable building with bright interiors lit by massive clear-glass windows.


When it was built, stained glass was definitely not on the menu for strict Dutch Calvinists, and neither was instrumental music. For its first century, the West Church had no organ, only choirs. Over the years since, the organ that was finally installed has grown and been renovated many times; it's highly regarded for Bach concerts each summer.


The first video above is of a Bach prelude; the second is a composition by the organist based on a text by Martin Luther. In the second you can see the organ at work; it is so complex that besides the organist it requires two assistants to pull stops!


Visiting earlier this year, I could see evidence of the ongoing renovation which has made visiting hours chancy, and has closed the tower, noted for spectacular views, for a couple of years.


The Westerkerk's fittings and furniture tend toward the austere or formal, but some of the more modern bits are quite interesting, including this large holder for votive candles and a globe-shaped support for a Bible or other text.


Some older bits... the three vertical Xs are a symbol of the city; they can be seen all over the city, including on the tower of the Westerkerk.


Modern seating mixes with older decor, sometimes in odd ways; it can't be easy sitting in one of the many chairs that are poised over incised carvings in the floor!


The Westerkerk was one of three built in the first decades of the 17th century when Amsterdam was growing rich on trade and Protestantism was on the rise. The Oude Kerk and Nieuwe Kerk (Old and New churches) had been built for Catholic worship; the North, South and West Churches (Noordekerk, Zuiderkerk and Westerkerk) represented a new start.


Hendrick de Keyser, the architect of all three, essentially created a style that could be called 'Dutch Renaissance,' and which influenced more than a century of significant buildings; his sons were his successors. He drew on classic forms, but many of the elements that were structural in Italian Renaissance buildings he studied on a trip to Italy became more decoration than support.


Outside, the church borders on the Western Market, or Westermarkt, and some of the small sheds and spaces along its outer walls are now stores for crafts or souvenirs, continuing a practice as old as the church; rents helped support the church. The market is a pleasant place to sit a while or have a snack. The Anne Frank House, and a landing stage for canal tours is just around the corner.



Images (29)
  • 20220512_172722
  • P1220839
  • P1220840
  • P1220841
  • P1220842
  • P1220843
  • P1220844
  • P1220845
  • P1220846
  • P1220847
  • P1220848
  • P1220849
  • P1220850
  • P1220851
  • P1220852
  • P1220853
  • P1220854
  • P1220855
  • P1220856
  • P1220857
  • P1220858
  • P1220861
  • P1220862
  • P1220863
  • P1220864
  • P1220866
  • P1220867
  • P1220870
  • 0225

The best part of every trip is realizing that it has upset your expectations

Add Comment

Comments (0)

Link copied to your clipboard.