Haarlem – The Great Church and famous Pipe Organ – Nederlands

 Vleeshal building Haarlem

CattleHeadHaarlem Haarlem – North Holland

A brief visit to Haarlem. Love this Gothic structure, the Vleeshal building, built between 1602-1605; originally a “Meat Hall” as the renaissance decoration of the bull and rams head on the facade suggests. A striking old classical building.

Ladder Lift in Haarlem,Nederthlands

Ladder Lift

Interesting to see how times have changed, no more furniture and boxes hauled to or fro from the attic windows by a winch, once the traditional method. Watched this Ladder lift in use whilst in Haarlem, looks pretty simple once set up. Haven’t seen one of those before.

The Great Church of St. Bavo's of Haarlem,,Netherlands

The Great Church in Haarlem.

A  very famous old church known as The Great Church of St. Bavo’s or Grote Kerk of Haarlem, a must see. Below a view of interior looking east down the central nave. The Great Church of St Bavo’s  has a long history dating from its construction between the years 1370-1538. A striking interior with soaring vaulted wooden ceilings some 29 metres in height, supported by stone pillars. A  huge floor area of  worn grey stone slabs.

The Great Church of St. Bavo's Haarlem, Holland Netherlands

Interior looking east down the central nave

Inside the Great Church of Haarlem, the Sanctuary lies behind a magnificent medieval copper rood screen from 1517, the design so fine and intricate it looks like lace work. The great church has an impressive Christian Muller pipe organ from 16th century. Completed between 1735 and 1738, considered at that time to be the largest pipe organ in the world. Famous composers – Mendelssohn, Handel and Mozart played this pipe organ, which has – 5068 pipes and is almost 30 meters in height.

The Great church Haarlem Holland Netherlands

Intricate medieval copper rood screen

Concerts are regularly held in the Great Church, and at special times throughout the year the public can walk in and listen to this famous pipe organ. I would so love to sit down and enjoy an afternoon of classical music from this magnificent organ.The Great church Haarlem Holland Netherlands

Model ships of the Captains’ guild dating from the 16th and 17th centuries hang on the wall near the entrance door. Guilds were a very important thread of society in middle ages. A chapel of the former Brewers Guild known as the Brewers Chapel, indicates the importance of Guilds in society and the church in medieval times.

Ships the great church of St Bavo's Haarlem

Model ships of the Captain’s guild.

The Great Church Haarlem Holland Netherlands

If you stand in the transept or crossing (approx. middle of the church) there is a good view of the many richly colored pillar  paintings dating from 15th century. Look up and see a delicately patterned tiled ceiling above the transept.



The floor of the Great Church in Haarlem consists entirely of gravestones, some 1500, most from ancient times sad, macabre and fascinating, all at the same time. Graves allowed in the church until 1831. Many important townspeople throughout the centuries buried in the Great Church.  The members of one family quite often buried under a family gravestone. Important families had family mourning shields hanging on the walls of the church, some of these can still be seen today. The four family mourning shields below belong to one family, buried in the church between 1733 and 1781. The gilded timber panel in the middle (ca 1585)  quotes a bible text from the gospel of St John (1John 2:{9-10}).

Mourning shields The great Church St Bavo's Haarlem

18th century family mourning shields


Below looking west towards the ancient bread bench in the south aisle, this is where the priests or monks handed out bread to the poor. The bread bench dates from 1470. There is also an “Orphan Box” for donations  to help orphaned children. Look for the Dog-Hitters Chapel. As the name suggests the main task of a dog-hitter in medieval times was to keep dogs away from the church and keep order in the church.

The Great Church of St Bavo's Haarlem

Bread bench for feeding the poor

Unlike many of the other churches with historic stained glass windows in the Netherlands, the Great Church of St. Bavo’s has very few. Most windows in the Great Church are from other defunct or demolished churches. It does have a few modern, beautifully designed windows in rich colors. The one below is behind the bread bench,it has attractive colors and design. Yes, I do love stained glass windows.


The one I liked most “Noah” – by Louis Boermeester in 1985.  It is a fascinating old church, so much more to see inside, well worth a visit. Do check if there is a concert happening when you are in Haarlem, I believe the sound of this great pipe organ is one not to be missed.


Once outside again in the warm sunshine hard to resist a sit down in the market square and enjoy a taste of Adrianne’s rose beer, a nice Dutch brew, left us all feeling happy and  relaxed. Market squares have a  very friendly atmosphere, and quite often music from regular buskers add to the ambiance of the place.

McDonald’s in Haarlem

One last building of interest – guess – if you’re feeling homesick, McDonald’s in Haarlem. I thought they had managed to integrate Macca’s  fairly well with the classic old Dutch buildings standing alongside.

McDonald's - Haarlem

Macca’s – McDonald’s Haarlem

 Hofje – Housing for the Elderly

Stroll down some side streets to look at a Hofje, which is a dutch word for a courtyard with almshouses around it. They have existed since the middle ages and were built by rich people in christian communities and at that time provided housing for elderly poor, mostly women who have fallen on hard times and considered less able to care for themselves than men. Hofje’s have a distinct entrance gateway leading into a garden and the housing.

Hofje - Haarlem, Holland Netherlands

Entrance Gate into Hofje – Haarlem

Hofjte-ground-The Great Church of Haarlem

Hofje grounds

Hofjte, Haarlem,Holland Netherlands

Hofje van Guurtje de Waal, Haarlem

Today the Hofje’s offer housing for men and women. Geurtje Jansdochter de Waal, daughter of a rich textile merchant, funded the Hofje above in 1616 for poor women of the Dutch Reformed faith.   Very pretty gardens, quiet peaceful areas, cobbled streets, leafy green trees and  wisteria.  A delightful walk around Haarlem.


Haarlem - the great church of st. bavo's Haarlem

Haarlem – cobbled streets, bicycles and wisteria vines

Hofje van Bakenes, built in 1395,  is the oldest hofje in Netherlands and can be found in Haarlem.  There are some 21 hofje’s in Haarlem. Most of the Hofje’s are free to visit between 10:00 am and 17:00 pm, except on Sundays when closed. There are also tours available to visit the Hofje’s.

Maastricht tomorrow – the home of Andre Rieu……

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