Wednesday, May 03, 2023

A Clandestine Catholic Church in Amsterdam

A friend recently visited one of the so-called clandestine Catholic churches in Amsterdam, and graciously shared his pictures of it with NLM. In the days when the Dutch Republic was a Protestant confessional state, Catholics were not allowed to have public churches or religious ceremonies; they were, however, allowed to maintain chapels in private homes, with certain restrictions (e.g. the entrance had to be on a side street.) This is one of the most famous, known as “Ons Lieve Her op Solder - Our Dear Lord in the Attic”; a map of the others, totaling more than 30, is given below. The chapel was installed in 1661 by a merchant named Jan Hartman shortly after he purchased the building, which was then about 30 years old.

The altar seen from the choir loft.
Clandestine churches could not have anything on the outside that showed that they were churches, since the Dutch Protestants fully understood the power of beauty to preach the Faith.  
In the 19th century, legal restrictions on Catholic worship were repealed, and new public churches began to be built. In 1887, a basilica dedicated to St Nicholas, the patron of the Netherlands, was completed on a site about 3 minutes’ walk away, and the following year, Our Lord in the Attic was converted into a museum, but Mass is still said here on occasion, and all the liturgical furnishings have been preserved. (The page about the chapel on Dutch Wikipedia relates that in the early 18th century, the congregation had very much outgrown it, and the pastor wanted to demolish it and move to a much larger facility, but the plan was stopped by the intervention of the reformed church and the civil authorities only a few days before the demolition was scheduled to begin. The same page has more information about the chapel’s history, and is accompanied by a very large Wikimedia Commons page; Chrome can translate Dutch very well.)

The baptismal font.
The confessional.
Here we see all the other liturgical objects needed for the proper functioning of a church: chalices, monstrances, cruets, reliquaries etc.
Vestments and the vestment cupboard.
The organ
The priest’s cubby bed.
A map showing the location of the clandestine Catholic churches of Amsterdam.

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