The Netherlands

Oude Kerk, Delft, The Netherlands

What is today referred to as the Oude Kerk (Old Church) is actually St. Bartholomew’s Church was founded in 1246, replacing an earlier church.

Not unusually in the Netherlands, the foundations of the Church were not bedded down on solid ground and so the church started to lean very early in its life. As the tower was slowly built the builders tried to fix the lean. The tower was built between 1325 and 1350 and only the very top part with its four corner turrets is actually in the vertical – which makes the church look like its got a slight kink in the middle.

The church was the tallest building in Delft until the Nieuwe Kerk was constructed. By 1440 the church had become a massive basilican church with a high nave. Even then there were hopes to make the church larger and more impressive but a fire swept through Delft in 1536 and was followed by the Reformation and all the building plans were shelved. In 1654 the Delft Explosion – the detonation of the town’s 30 ton gunpowder store – damaged the church further necessitating further renovations – it also destroyed half of Delft City Centre, killing over a hundred people and wounding thousands.

By the time thoughts began to return to expanding the church the focus of the town had switched to the Nieuwe Kerk and so the Oude Kerk was merely repaired. The stained glass was repaired after World War II.

The largest bell in the tower dates to 1570 and weighs close to 9 tons, because the vibrations from the bell are so strong it damages surrounding buildings, so it is now only ever rung if a member of the Dutch Royal family is buried at the Nieuwe Kerk or if there is a disaster.

Photo - Andrew J. Müller

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