The Simplicity of the Geertekerk

Last week I met up with a friend in order to take a few photos outside the Geertekerk. That post is still to come, but for now, I’ll share a few — ok, a lot — of photos I took of the church itself. As I’ve mentioned before, for the next few months, the Kerken Kijken event makes it easy to go inside many of the churches throughout the city. They may not all look that impressive outside, but there’s often an inherent and calm beauty inside, even in the simplest of churches.

The Geertekerk looks a bit like a fortress from the outside, to the point that both of us were joking that the small slit windows were surely for the archers to send out flaming arrows down onto the invaders. In reality, I believe the slit windows are to help light the way up the bell tower. Speaking of which, here’s the beginning of the steps that you have to climb to get up the tower. I thought our top-floor “stairs” were bad!
More Stairs of Death

(It was raining that afternoon, so apologies for the water spots on some of these photos.)

The church was originally built around 1255 and was one of four medieval parish churches. It started off as a typical Romanesque hall, with more of a square floor plan. However, work was done to upgrade and expand the church early on, first with the tower, and then in the 14th and 15th centuries, it was expanded into the more common cross floor plan that we typically see nowadays. This was achieved through the addition of aisles on the side, as well as a transept, choir, and chapels. The aisles are currently curtained off, at least the day we were there, perhaps to make it a bit more cosy for the group that was meeting that afternoon.

Geertekerk Interior

Geertekerk Interior

As you can see, it also has a flat, tray-like ceiling that almost gives the building a Scandinavian feel. It actually made me think of a ship’s hull turned upside down. The church began to fall into disrepair by the 19th century, and by 1930, it was no longer in use. In 1954, it was purchased by the Remonstrant Church Council, who is ultimately responsible for the roof, since the original roof was gone by then. Much of the church had sustained various degrees of damage from the elements, so a great deal of work was put into it to restore it. There are a series of photos and prints hanging in one section of the church that show how it looked in the past, as well as some of the restoration work that was done.

When you walk into the main body of the church, there’s a surprisingly large organ overhead, which includes a disc with some of the church’s history explained. The organ itself dates to 1803.

In the transept, there are three stained-glass windows that were made by Johan Dijkstra – of Groningen Artist Circle ‘De Ploeg’ – between 1957 and 1964.
Contemporary Stained Glass

There are regular plain glass lancet windows around the apse, which, when paired with the plain white walls, gives the area a serene and soft glow.
Geertekerk Apse

The church is located in a lovely part of town, with one of the old city ring canals almost right outside the entrance. There’s another church just down the street, as well as the Zeven Steegjes, which I’ve mentioned before. Even if you don’t go inside the church, take a walk past the front door, where you’ll see a stone mosaic of a fish. I suspect that’s one of the recent additions, despite the somewhat medieval appearance, but it’s still a nice decorative touch.

Drift 15

A few weeks ago, I posted about the chimney on Keizerstraat that was part of a goldsmith/silversmith foundry run by the Brom Brothers. In doing some further reading, I discovered that a building on the next street over — along the Drift canal — was essentially the drawing room/technical office of the Broms. The building itself, dates back to the 1600s, I believe, and the Brom family simply renovated the facade of the building in the early 1900s. The renovation was done by architect P.J. Houtzagers. The hall of the building was redone in the Art Nouveau style, and it would seem that some of the hall’s renovation was done with the help of one of Houtzager’s students at the time, Gerrit Rietveld!

There’s a stone marker on the front of the building. You can see it in detail here. It was placed there to commemorate the Brom family and jeweler Leo Brom, the last of the Brom goldsmiths.

The building is an official monument now, although it is also still in use by Utrecht University. It currently houses the Netherlands Institute of Human Rights, a research institute of the School of Law.