Saturday, August 15, 2015


In Dutch the word "Kerk" means church. The Grote Kerk of Dordrecht labeled as a church here in Holland would well carry the mantle of Cathedral in any U.S. city. It's a beautiful structure taking its current form at the end of the fifteenth century built near the site where the Oude Maas, Noord and the Lower Merwede rivers converge to make the busiest river hub in all of Europe.
It carries the nickname of, "The Leaning Tower". The sixty-seven-bell carillon supposedly leans but from every side that I looked at I couldn't detect a Pisa tilt. Because of this concern about its toppling over, a huge fire in 1457 that destroyed a good part of it and a lack of the necessary funds the tower which was supposed to top off at 354 feet only made it to 236 feet.
Once inside the cool slate floor immediately reduces your body temperature until you realize your walking over the resting places of past nobles and clergy. The striking crown over the pulpit was the first thing to draw my attention away from the death under foot. It was as ornate as Bartholomew Cubbins last five-hundredth hat. Dr. Seuss would have been proud.
As we walked in the massive pipe organ was being played. The organ is played using a console with both a keyboard and series of stops. It requires both hands and feet to operate an organ that can contain as few as a dozen pipes or as many as twenty thousand.
A small mirror to the right of the Grote Kerk organ lets the assembled watch inside as the organist pumps the keys and stops.
The nave of the church stretches almost as far as the eye can see from underneath the grand pipe organ, under a row of massive chandeliers, rows of mahogany pews and flanks of stone columns.
At about the midpoint in the nave is an ornate brass gate separating the choir area from the rest of the congregation.
A series of small alcoves surround the outer ring of the church festooned with statuary and massive stained glass windows.
In 2007 a Bach Organ was added to the church's interior. The organ gets its name for Johann Sebastian Bach as it was made specifically to play music Bach composed for the organ. Concerts on the organ are performed regularly throughout the year.
Perhaps if we had religious structures like this we'd all be a bit more religious.

Going all the way back to 1050 the first iteration of the Oude Kerk was raised by the medieval farmers, brew masters and inn keepers that had set up business along the rivers edge of Delft. Then in 1240 the building of what was to become the current church was begun making it the oldest church in Delft. The construction of the clock tower was one of its most interesting features. The soft underpinning of the tower caused it to lean during the initial construction phase. Then the bricklayers tried to compensate for the lean that gives it its crocked appearance but the lean is still visible. It was eventually stabilized by adding four corner support towers but the neighbors have made sure that it is closely monitored.
One of the strongest features of the church is its ceiling. The wooden barrel vault with its supporting crossbars gives the church a warmth it wouldn't otherwise have.

The added white washed wall, the result of an early fire, give this church a purity and simplicity that seems appropriate to contemplation.
A major pipe organ painted grey adds to the serenity and anchors the back end of the interior of the church
As you walk through all the churches of Delft and Dordrecht you find yourself stepping on the tombs of the rich and famous. Even though Johannes Vermeer died penniless he was still granted a resting place in the Oude Kerk. The entombment in the church floors has long since been stopped and not because the church floor ran out of room. The problem was with the smell. Apparently rotting bodies created such a stench it was impossible for the parishioners to stay long enough to hear the first hymn before the unpleasant odor would force them to the exits, not a good way of growing your parish.
Now sculpted cherubs and beautiful stained glass windows watch over the flock.

Only in Europe would you define new as 1393. That's when the first stones were laid for the Nieuwe Kerk, a church that would meet disaster on more than one occasion.
The church that now accepts visitors for a fee was built in 1655. The church is definitely more impressive than its older sister, the Oude Kerk.
There are sarcophagi laced through out the church, but its biggest claim to fame is its being the resting place for the Dutch Royal Family.
A huge stone plate rests in the middle of the nave and hides the stairway down to the tomb of the Royal Family. Since the beginning of this ritual the burial cellar has had to be enlarged on several occasions to make room for all those dead royals.
The pomp and circumstance accompanying these burial ceremonies is quite impressive. There was a bank of video monitors where you could sit and watch the procession of the most recent internments.
The Nieuwe Kerk is a much more somber version of the Oude Kerk. It's a bit darker and more overbearing but still very beautiful.
For the size of a small city, Delft has some very impressive secular architecture.

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