Amsterdam, Our Lord in the Attic Museum, Reijks Museum

This morning the group headed off to “Our Lord in the Attic Museum”, a Catholic house Church built in the 17th century. This museum highlights the Dutch Golden Age of the 17th century where Dutch trade, science, military, and art were among the most acclaimed in the world. It also shows a dark time during the Dutch Reformation period when Catholics and other non reformed religions were forbidden to worship openly. In order to circumvent this law, a wealthy merchant by the name Jan Hartsman transformed the top three floors of his adjoining houses into a church consisting of an alter and around 150 seats. Local officials often turned a blind eye to such churches so long as they remain hidden to the public. The people of Amsterdam where allowed to believe what they wanted, but they could not worship openly.

     Starting our tour in the lower area of the house, we got to see kitchens, living areas, and entryways with parts dating back to the 17th century. One of the cool features in the area were the box beds which cut into the wall and could be hidden by day with curtains. They were located in seemingly random rooms, and people would sleep not laying down but leaning against the the pillows. Doesn’t really sound too comfortable to us, but it acted as an attempt to save space.

     After the living quarters we made our way to the Chapel area which has been referbished to look the same way it did in the 18th Century. The wooden altar was painted to look like marble. This was a common feature throughout the house. One interesting feature in the chapel was the pulpit, which folded out of the left side of the altar. This feature is not common among Catholic Churches, but was an efficient and creative way to save space in this house church. Also, steel supports were added to the top three floors as the main beams were cut away to make room for the sanctuary.

     The audio guide posed the question of whether or not this church was a sign of religious tolerance or intolerance? This is a question we should all think/talk about. Either way, the museum gave us a unique perspective into the lives of the people of Amsterdam in the 17th and 18th centuries.

     After a short lunch, the class made its way across town to the Reijks museum. The museum had a very helpful phone application that visitors could download. This allowed us non “Art Guys” to optimize our time by taking a 45 minute highlight tour. The museum had a good layout and a variety of collections. Best of all, most pieces had English descriptions unlike the Louve!

     We started the tour by looking at some of the artwork that helped make the 17th century into the Dutch Golden Age. The museum is home to Rembrandt’s masterpiece The Night Watch. The painting shows a company of Amsterdam’s militiamen, and was painted in 1642. There were several paintings in this room that showed a company of militiamen. However, what made The Night Watch so special was Rembrandt’s original idea to show men in action. Rembrandt masterfully uses light to emphasize important details in the painting like the captain’s hand gesture or the girl in the dress.

     One of our favorite and most surprising exhibits was the doll houses. These houses dated back to the 17th century, and were definitely not a toy for children. Rather, these massive works of art were used as decorative display pieces for women. Now I understand why my grandma’s Dutch friends have doll houses sitting in their living rooms!

    Finally, we saw three paintings by Vincent Van Gough in the museum: A self-Portrait, Undergrowth, and Cafe and Dish with Citrus Fruit. These were very small paintings (2′ x 2′), but they had the distinct “dotty” style that characterizes Van Gough’s work. Unfortunately, for two reasons, I would guess that these were not originals. 1) There is a Van Gough collection in a different museum down the street. 2) There was not a crowd of millennials around these three paintings trying to take selfies. Nevertheless, we enjoyed seeing the paintings without too much of a crowd.

     Tonight, we will enjoy some free time, allowing us to enjoy some authentic Dutch cuisine in small groups.

– Cam & Matt