Essential Architecture-  Amsterdam

Zuiderkerk  ("South Church")


Hendrick de Keyser


stands on the Zuiderkerkhof ("South Graveyard") square near the Sint Anthoniesbreestraat. Amsterdam, Holland




Amsterdam Renaissance




Images copyright Roeland Koning (published with generous permission)
Zuiderkerk (Amsterdam)

The Zuiderkerk ("South Church") is a 17th Century Protestant church in the Nieuwmarkt area of Amsterdam, The Netherlands. The church played an important part in the life of Rembrandt and was the subject of a painting by Claude Monet.

The distinctive church tower, which dominates the surrounding area, was not completed until 1614 and contains a carillion of bells built by the brothers Hemony, installed in 1656.

The design of the church in Amsterdam Renaissance style is by Hendrick de Keyser, who was also buried in the church in 1621. A memorial stone was placed on top of his tomb in 1921. De Keyser designed the church as a pseudo-basilica with a central nave and two lower side aisles, six bays long, with Tuscan columns, timber barrel vaults and dormers. The stained glass in the rectangular windows was replaced by transparent glass in the 17th Century. The richly detailed tower is a a square stone substructure, on which an octagonal sandstone section stands with free-standing columns on the corners. On top of this is a wooden, lead-covered spire.

French Impressionist painter Claude Monet painted the church during a visit to the Netherlands. There is some confusion about the date of this painting, but it was probably one of 12 paintings made by Monet in 1874 during a visit to Amsterdam. The composition is centred on the church spire, with the Groenburgwal canal leading up to it in the foreground. The reflections of the buildings on the water are represented by yellow brushstrokes only, with no detail to them. The painting now hangs in the Philadelphia Museum of Art.

Three of Rembrandt's children were buried in the Zuiderkerk, which is very near to Rembrandt's house in the Jodenbreestraat. According to local legend, he painted the Night Watch at the church because his own studio was too small, but that is a highly disputed claim. Ferdinand Bol, one of Rembrandt's most famous pupils, was buried in the Zuiderkerk in 1680.

The Zuiderkerk was used for church services until 1929. During the final (1944-1945) winter of World War II, known as the hongerwinter ("winter of hunger") in the Netherlands because food was so scarce, the church was in use as a temporary morgue because people were dying faster than they could be buried. The church was closed in 1970 because it was at the point of collapse. In the years 1976-1979, the church underwent renovation, and since 1988 it serves as a municipal information centre, with regularly changing exhibitions as well as a permanent exhibition which features a scale model of Amsterdam as it is envisioned in 2020.

Since June 2006, the church also houses the "Wall of Fame", an homage to Dutch celebrities who have made a positive contribution to society, such as charitable work. The honourees include Amsterdam mayor Job Cohen, four-time Olympic swimming champion Inge de Bruijn and legendary football player Johan Cruijff.

The church is open to visitors Monday through Saturday. The tower, which offers stunning views of the surrounding area, is open to visitors Tuesdays through Sundays during the summer months. The carillon plays on Sundays between 4pm and 5pm.


Zuiderkerk (1603/11)


The church, designed by Hendrick de Keyser, was built between 1603 and 1611. It was the very first church commissioned by the Protestant community. The building is of the type commonly called pseudo-basilica, with its two aisles which are only slightly lower than the nave, so that there is no room for clerestories. The top gables facing north and south were decorated in a rich and flamboyant Renaissance style. These truncated gables crowned by balustrades remind us of the Noorderkerk and the Westerkerk. However, the rectangular shape of the windows is unique to the Zuiderkerk.

Tower of
the Zuiderkerk (1614)

The splendid tower was completed in 1614. The base of the tower is a square. On top of this section there is an octagonal element, the lower part of which is covered in sandstone and decorated with Ionic pillars. The wooden spire is covered with lead, a type of construction common to many Amsterdam spires.

In 1970 the building was closed down on account of the atrocious condition it was in. During the period 1976-1979 major restorations were carried out.