/ The Amsterdam Guide
Amsterdam — By Marianne on February 28, 2010 at 12:04 pm
Filed under: , , ,

Medieval Amsterdam

Amsterdam was founded in 1306, or to be more precise that is the year city rights were granted. Few buildings from this period remain because in 1421 fire destroyed two-thirds of the city. When in 1452 another blaze swept through the city, legislation was passed banning the use of wood as building material.

Two wooden houses survived until today. The oldest dates back to 1420, and is at number 34 Begijnhof. The other one at number 1 Zeedijk, In ‘t Aepje.

Wooden House at Begijnhof

Begijnhof is a secluded court surrounded by a huddle of 17th and 18th century houses looking onto a central green. It was founded in the 14th century as a home for Beguines, an order of lay nuns who educated the poor and cared for the sick in return for lodging within the complex. Nothing survives of the earliest cottages that consisted of brick and wooden dwellings, apart from the Houten Huys, the wooden house.

In ‘t Aepjen (at the Monkey) is Amsterdam’s oldest pubs. It started life as a hostel for seamen. The innkeeper allowed sailors to pay their drinking and gambling debts by leaving a monkey behind, which they had brought back from the Dutch East Indies. It was not long before the hostel was infested with monkeys and fleas. Sailors lodging in this hostel were easy to spot as they scratched themselves madly and truly seemed to be in trouble. We still have a saying: in de aap gelogeerd which translates as spent the night in the monkey and means that someone is in difficulty. Nowadays, in ‘t Aepjen is a popular pub crammed with antiques and leather armchairs. But leave your monkey at home as it is cash only.

Amsterdam’s oldest monument is Oude Kerk, Old Church, right in the middle of the Red Light District. Building started in 1250. Its yawning interior served many functions. Pedlars set up stalls in the aisles and merchants concluded deals. It was a gathering place for travellers and gave shelter to the homeless. Pilgrims came in their thousands after a miracle had occurred. They provided the church with extra funds which was used to build aisles, chapels and more towers.

More than 10.000 people were buried in the Old Church and the floor is covered with tomb stones. One tomb stone might contain up to four graves because the dead lie buried on top of each other. Wander through the church and notice many interesting details. A secret door at the back of the church  leads to the iron chapel, a hiding place for important city documents. The oak-encased Vater-Müller organ is surrounded by wooden statues of biblical figures. Composer and organist Sweelinck was the church’s main organist. An inscription on the lintel above the door of the former sacristy warns those about to enter, marry in haste repent at leisure.

Today the church hosts travelling exhibitions. The most popular is the World Press Photo which comprises prize-winning photographs from world’s biggest photo-journalism competition.

The Old Weighing House

The former weighing house, now café-restaurant In De Waag dates back to 1488. This multi-turreted building started out as one of Amsterdam’s fortified gates. It was then turned into the municipal weighing house. The upstairs rooms were used by the surgeons guild who held here public dissections which Rembrandt portrayed in his painting The Anatomy Lesson of Dr Nicolaes Tulp. At one time, De Waag stored the city’s archives and in Napoleonic days Nieuwmarkt Square in front of the de Waag served as public execution place. Today, the Waag is a haunt for gourmets, a top class café-restaurant with outdoor seating in summer.

After exploring medieval Amsterdam, order a frothy cappuccino with scrumptious apple pie. Sit back, spoon up the whipped cream and enjoy this Dutch treat.

WHAT: Oude Kerk
WHERE: Oudekerksplein 23, Amsterdam (map)
OPENING HOURS: Monday – Saturday 11.00 – 17.00, Sunday 13.00 – 17.00
ADMITTANCE:Adults €6, Children under 12 free, IAmstedam Card and Museum Card €1
ORGAN CONCERTS: Most Saturdays and Sundays at 3 pm, Tickets at €5 available 30 minutes before the concert begins.Admission: €5, IAmsterdam Card and Museum Card free entrance.

WHAT: Wooden House
WHERE: Begijnhof 34 (map)
OPENING HOURS: 11 am – 17 pm, often closed in July and August

WHAT: In ‘t Aepjen
WHERE: Zeedijk 1 (map)
OPENING HOURS: 3 pm – 1 am (3 am weekends)

WHAT: Café-Restaurant In De Waag
WHERE: Nieuwmarkt 4 (map)
OPENING HOURS: 10am – 10.30 pm

photo credit: personal collection

4 places are mentioned in this post!
Click on the place name to learn more

Leave a Reply


Leave a Trackback