Situated in the De Wallen near the Oude Kerk and the Red-Light District by the famous Amsterdam canals is the Ons’ Lieve Heer Op Solder (Our Lord in the Attic). It is a complex made of three canal houses combined to make a House Church in the 17th Century. The need of House Churches or “clandestine churches” came about due to the Alteration of the 1578 which prohibited public worship of religious dissenters including Catholics. Ons Lieve Heer Op Solder was built by Jan Hartman, a linen merchant of German descent. He was a devout Catholic who wanted to create a space for his community to worship in private. He took up the massive undertaking of combining the attics of three canals houses to make space for the Church. It is an architectural marvel considering the engineering methods and technology of the time.
The house is a portal to the past. One feels like they’ve entered the Dutch Golden Age. The furniture, the paintings and interiors of the house gives you the feeling that you are visiting a 17th Century aristocrat’s home. The church has been painstakingly restored to its state in the 19th century when it was still a functioning church. This disparity in time periods of certain elements of the house is to restore authentically, on the basis of available documents and resources describing the home and the church. This prevents false imitation or ‘Disneyfication’ as it is known in the heritage industry.
An audio tour is available for hire in various languages. It describes each important element of the house and gives the visitors a choice to gain further information on certain elements such as stories behind the paintings, history behind an architectural feature such as the alignment of the tiles design to the ceiling or focus on symmetry. The house, typical of traditional Dutch houses has steep staircases making it difficult for differently abled visitors to go around the house.
The spaces in the house can be small which makes social distancing a little tricky in these pandemic times but the museum has done everything possible to facilitate social distancing by barricading multiple entry/ exit points to create a linear movement and putting up signage everywhere to remind visitors to maintain 1.5 metres of distance. It is also imperative to book a time slot for your visit. This prevents crowding. The museum staff is friendly and helpful. They’re available to answer any further questions you might have during your visit and helpfully flash light while you admire the paintings! So, if you are looking for a quaint place in the city to visit, and want to see a canal house from the inside, head to this museum, it’s hitting two birds with one stone! Mrudula Tatavarthi 30th September 2020