Monday, July 23, 2012

Amsterdam--Haarlem (St. Bavo's), Rijks

Amsterdam—July 23

Today we decided to go to Haarlem (about 17 km outside Amsterdam.) The main reason for going was to see Corrie ten Boom’s house.

You know the story: the ten Boom family harbored Jews, members of the Dutch resistance, and others who were hiding from the Gestapo during World War Two. But more of that tomorrow . . . . .

Much to our chagrin, we discovered the ten Boom museum is not open on Monday! So, here we are in Haarlem with no other plan. What do you do when your plan is interrupted? You just start walking, anticipating that there is another plan in the making, an adventure waiting to happen, a surprise around the corner. God always knows what is next and He simply invites us along for the journey.

We came to the massive Great Church of St. Bavo’s. Named for its patron saint, St. Bavo (who knew?) who died in 653 AD. The old church has existed in some form on this site since then. Construction on the present church, following a fire in 1351, was begun in 1370. The rebuild required almost 200 years; the completion year was 1538.

Doesn’t it make you stop and think about church building projects? A couple of years, 5 years—these seem like long stretches to us when it comes to constructing a church building. Our emotional and physical (if not spiritual) as well as financial reserves run out relatively quickly. It is difficult for us impatient, driven moderns to wait; even harder for us to live with a partly finished task.
We are generally quite concerned about our comfort and making sure our facilities are just right for us and our needs.

What if it took us 200 years finally to finish our building? Talk about building for those who are to come. The folks alive today, who are making the plans, investing the time, putting up the money, will never get even close to seeing the final product. In fact, their great, great grandchildren may never see it. You gotta have some kind of vision, a huge, generous vision; a faith that sees the big picture and looks into history—the history to come, not the history behind—recognizing and affirming that God is about much more in the world than you and your little piece of time yet also realizing that you play a role in this stream of holy history.

Obviously, we know that our church is not the building (although sometimes the place—the building—helps us quantify the entity). The point is, we are always in the building process. We are always building a church—for those who are here and even more so, for those who are to come. It is incumbent upon us to have a huge, generous vision. We have to see the big picture: this church is us, in our time and place, but it is also for many more to come. And what about them? How much do we take them into consideration as we “build” our church today? Our little piece of time matters in the history we are making; i.e., this church we are building is not finished here.

So, the surprise for me today was the prompt from an ancient church building; the thought that long building projects are symptomatic of the more fundamental task of building a church that is forever. That makes me want to stop and think some more about how we go about our business . . . .
Plus, there were some funny things that I observed that were most apropos! 

We returned to Amsterdam with some daylight left (we are far enough north that daylight lasts until 10:30 anyway), so we decided to go the Rijksmuseum, the national museum. This monstrous place holds a vast collection of memorabilia from the history of The Netherlands. It has displays regarding the birth of the Republic through the uniting of seven provinces (two of which were called Holland), the Republic as an international superpower (the Dutch once had the largest navy in the world), a treasury of silver and goldsmith work, a marvelous Delftware collection from the “Golden Age of The Netherlands”, and a considerable collection of paintings from the Dutch Masters, including many Rembrandts and his students and Vermeer and his Delft contemporaries. We stayed in this museum until they ran us out.

OK . . . some pictures from around Haarlem. It is lovely, quaint; has canals; it is a little quieter than Amsterdam. We decided that if we worked in Amsterdam, we would live in Haarlem and commute.

The inside of the old train station.

The first canal you come to as you walk into town.

Same as all over Holland--lots of bicycles and people bustling about. This is mid-morning on Monday.

I was taken by this row of old houses, now apartments along a side street.

This building, on the town square, has the same style as those apartment buildings, set off by the pointed facade in front.

Looking across the town square from the church--it is a clear, warm day (there are apparently not may of these) and everyone is outside at a cafe.

St. Bavo's from the north.

St. Bavo's from the south west.

These little shops are built right into the side of the church, inside the buttresses that hold up the external walls of the church. They are clearly add-ons, not a part of the original structure. Somebody had the ingenious idea that these nooks were perfect for shops. They are now a permanent addition!

St. Bavo's from the south east. Now you can see why it took 200 years to build.

The Müller organ with 5068 pipes (the longest is 32 feet long.) In 1766, Mozart was 10 years old when he played here. G. F. Händel also played this organ.

The sign by the organ commemorating Mozart's appearance here in 1766.

Gotta love that pulpit, oldest part of which dates from around 1434. The bannisters are formed by two brass serpents, symbolizing evil fleeing from the world.

The choir is closed off from the front by a masterpiece of medieval craftsmanship, a brass screen from 1517.

This is the first church of this size we have seen with a wooden ceiling.

Way up in the corner of the ceiling is the date of its installation.

The chancel from the organ end of the building.

This is the first church we have encountered (there are others--this is just the first one we have seen) in which the entire floor consists entirely of grave stones. People with a little money and or notoriety could purchase a burial place in the church.

There are about 1500 gravestones in the floor altogether, the oldest of which date back as far as the fifteenth century.

The gravestone floor is polished to a sheen by the countless feet that have trod here. Walking on the graves of your forebears might be a powerful lesson concerning the passage of time and the importance of making your own life count.

To wit: a marker on a floor gravestone--skull and crossbones on top of an hourglass. Beware: you have only so much time and then you wind up here.

There are three model ships, beautiful craftsmanship, which were a gift to the church from the Shipbuilders guild, dating from somewhere in the 16th and 17th centuries. They are modeled on the ships that were built in Haarlem at the time.

In the back of the choir there stands a communion board. On its reverse side, seen here, is a report of the siege of Haarlem in 1573. Line 8 reports that the people were so hungry that "ja honden en catten waren wilbraet gheheten"; i.e., "dogs and cats were called roast game."

Every church, no matter where you are, has to have good coffee, gravestones or no gravestones.

This is the "Coffee Corner."Note: medieval surroundings; very contemporary espresso machine. Just sayin' . . . .

We don't have real problems. This is a cannonball in the wall, placed there as a reminder of the Spanish siege of Haarlem in 1573.

This means, basically, "Bread Bench." It tells the poor where to come to get their daily portion of bread.

This is the "Holy Spirit Bench" (also the "Bread Bench".) The Hold Spirit Masters handed out bread to the poor at this bench, which dates from 1470.

I had to take this series of pictures. This is the monitor of a closed circuit, live video feed that shows what is going on up in the organ loft. A concert is going to be taking place later today and the organists are preparing and practicing. (We actually got snippets of organ concerts in several cathedrals we visited--it is the season of organ recitals and concerts.)

You can see one of the organists sorting and stacking large pieces of sheet music (there was a sizable stack of these sheets and each sheet looked to be several pages taped together.)

He works and works to get the stack just right. He sorts and resorts until finally he is satisfied and then places the whole stack on the organ. Then he sits down.

The next musician comes up and immediately begins to resort the stack, apparently not satisfied the music is in the right order. I was mesmerized by this activity, going on in real time just above my head in the loft of an ancient cathedral in Haarlem, Holland. Apparently, it is the same all over the world: getting the right music, getting it in a usable format, taping multiple pages together thus having large, unwieldy sheets to manage, getting them in the right order, and then everyone agreeing.
This is encouraging, right?

A lovely canal just outside the church.

On the train back to Amsterdam, we tried to get a shot of one of the very few traditional windmills we saw anywhere in the country. The train was moving rapidly, there was reflection in the window, it was too fast to zoom in quickly--but I almost got it. Sarah got a better shot that I will share.

Delftware in the Rijksmuseum.

Cupid is telling everyone to hush as he (she, it?) carefully draws an arrow in order to shoot it into the heart of unsuspecting victim.

Sorry . . . I did not do very well in shooting Rembrandt in the museum. But I tried.

The famous Vermeer.

Rembrandt's famous "Night Watch."

This was cool. We watched how they move taller boats up and down the canal. Some bridges go up from the center.

Other bridges pivot on top of an offset pier, creating a passage wide enough for the largest tour boats. This was amazing engineering. The interface between bridge and street was almost invisible due to the very close tolerance in the curved joint.

The big boat goes through . . . .

The little guy sneaks in after it . . . .

1 comment:

  1. I really like that long-term view of the church, investing in the future and realizing that we're in this for the long haul! If we were to do something to invest in the church 200 years from now, what would it look like? How about 40 years from now?