Essential Architecture-  Amsterdam


Noorderkerk (1620/23)

In 1620 an important decision was made. The northern part of the Jordaan area was to have a church of its own. The Westerkerk, proved too far away in more sense than one. Hendrick de Keyser designed the Noorderkerk, built between 1620 and 1623. On June 15, 1620 the foundation stone was laid and as early as Easter 1623 the church opened its gates. When Hendrick died in 1621 his son Pieter took over and supervised the final phases of the construction process together with Hendrick Jacobsz Staets, the town carpenter, and Cornelis Danckerts, the city stone mason. Staets certainly managed to leave his mark on the building. The wooden vault and the elegant little tower, marking the central part of the church, demonstrate his excellent craftsmanship.

Originally a churchyard formed part of the churchgrounds. As early as 1688 the churchyard was moved to an area on the western outskirts near the present Rotterdam Bridge

The building takes up a special place among Amsterdam churches. The centrally planned structure, based on an octagonal groundplan and an elevation shaped like a Greek cross (i.e. with arms of equal length), meets the ideal requirements of Renaissance architecture. The clarity of the geometrical design is perfectly in keeping with the ideals of Humanism. Last but not least, this type of design is eminently suitable for the Protestant religious service which focuses on the pulpit. The pulpit of the Noorderkerk was placed against one of the pillars so that those who attend the service can see the preacher no matter where they are. The location of the church and its place among the surrounding buildings, however, is basically medieval in character. The building and the nearby houses cuddle up to each other and not a single street leads up to the church directly. Besides, the church is relatively low and lacks a prominent tower, so that it hardly rises above the surrounding houses.

Small triangular spaces are located in the four corners formed by the arms of the cross. They are separated from the central part of the church by arches. On the outside these structures are hidden from view by diagonally placed smallish buildings, among others the sexton’s quarters and the church warden’s office. The latter two buildings were renovated during the 18th century as a result of which the symmetry of the church was somewhat affected.

Each of the four arms of the Greek cross ends in a truncated gable crowned by a balustrade. The top gables, however, are much simpler in design than their counterparts of the Westerkerk. Renaissance elements such as balustrades, frontons, crolls and ornamental vases form an integral part of the design. The crossing is articulated by a small wooden tower with an open dome. Large Tuscan pillars are the most striking Renaissance elements dominating the interior of the church.

To this very day the Noorderkerk is the focal point of a flourishing Protestant community. The recent extensive restorations have already returned the exterior to its former glory. At present the interior is hidden from view by the scaffolding of the restoration crew. A further stage in the restoration process is the renovation of the organ. Funding, however, is still a problem.


Special thanks to the Amsterdam Bureau of Monuments and Archeology website,