During the time of the Dutch Golden Age, Holland was under Protestant Reformation, forbidding Catholics from worshipping in public. In defiance, Jan Hartman set about building a clandestine church in the attic of his recently purchased Amsterdam home in 1661. Museum Ons’ Lieve Heer op Solder, which translates to the Museum of Our Lord in the Attic, is the immaculately preserved house and church, which has become a national icon of religious freedom.
- Visit a well-preserved canal house from the Dutch Golden Age in the centre of Amsterdam.
- More than 100,000 visitors climb the historic steps to this museum each year.
- Sunday Mass is still held in the attic church every week.
Amsterdam's secret church
Jan Hartman was a prosperous merchant who made his fortune trading linen and collecting import taxes on wine. At the age of 42, Hartman, his wife and five children moved into a grand canal-side house on Amsterdam’s Oudezijds Voorburgwal, where he had also purchased two adjoining properties. Between the years of 1661 and 1663, Hartman oversaw the conversion of the upper three floors into a magnificent church, hidden behind the façade of a house.
Visiting Museum Ons' Lieve Heer op Solder
As one of the oldest museums in Amsterdam, second only to the Rijksmuseum, Museum Ons’ Lieve Heer op Solder gives visitors an insightful glimpse into life in the 17th century. Your visit begins with an exploration of the house in which Hartman lived with his family, and Priest, Petrus Parmentier. The reception hall is resplendent in its symmetrical design with ornate furniture, a panelled ceiling and a coat of arms above the fireplace. Two kitchens are decorated with Delft tiles, and the sitting rooms are furnished with replicas of the fabrics that hung on the walls to conserve warmth.
The church in the attic remains in close to original condition. It is exquisitely decorated and still contains many of the precious artefacts, artworks and details from its Golden Age beginnings. During various restoration projects over the years – the last major work was completed in 2015 – the walls were painted an unusual shade of dusky pink, which has been extracted and recreated from the original colour through scientific investigations. The colour is called ‘caput mortuum’, meaning ‘dead head’. An elaborate painting by Jacob de Wit forms the altarpiece above the pulpit and the original light fixtures have been updated with electric bulbs. Churchgoers came from far and wide to attend Mass, conducted by Priest Petrus Parmentier, who lived in the house with Hartman’s family, and to visit the confessional.
A symbol of religious freedom
Interestingly, when the Protestant government discovered Museum Ons’ Lieve Heer op Solder hidden away in Hartman’s home, their response was to impose a policy that made room for religions outside of Protestantism. This paved the way for the attitudes of religious freedom that are enjoyed in Holland today. The museum also hosts a varied programme of exhibitions based on themes of tolerance and diversity.
In the neighbourhood
If visiting the museum leaves you inspired to see more of Amsterdam’s cultural attractions, you’re in the right place. Take a canal tour to see the city’s most photogenic sights from the water, or explore the Red Light District. The nearby NEMO Science Museum offers a family-friendly introduction to science and technology that will live long in the memories of kids, while ARCAM Amsterdam is a must-see for architecture aficionados tracing the past, present and future of Amsterdam’s developments.
Please note that while the museum’s entrance building includes a lift and disabled toilet, due to the number of stairs and narrow passages in the historical building, access to the church is not possible for wheelchair users nor recommended for visitors with limited mobility.
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