The Great Church of St. Bavo’s Haarlem

Please also read Penny Sandford’s comment on the Christian Müller organ. My post contains some factual errors; and Sandford, being a guide in the St Bavo church Haarlem, has kindly corrected my observations.

A distinctive feature of the Netherlands must be its bikes. In fact, bikers seem to rule the streets and sidewalks. Some sidewalks have huge biking lanes which take up three quarters of the path. Pedestrians are confined to a small sliver of concrete:

Every once and a while, we will be surprised by the sound of a bell behind us, as we are inadvertently walking on the part of the path belonging to bikers. It would be nice if we too could ride bikes. However, I am unable to ride them as I am very bad at balancing.

Today, we walked to Station Amsterdam Centraal to get to Haarlem, a nearby city. On our way to the station, we passed the Amsterdam Palace:

There were also a number of streets featuring Chinese signs. This Chinese area seems to be intertwined with the red light district. I am always amazed by the spread of Chinese culture (especially food) throughout the world:

In Haarlem, we went to Grote Kerk van St Bavo. The church was painted by Pieter Jansz Saenredam in his painting titled “Interior of the Church of St. Bavo in Haarlem”, which we saw in Rijksmuseum yesterday:

Seeing the church itself allowed us to compare the painter’s vision with the real thing. From the picture I took below, it seems that the painter may have manipulated the space a bit to highlight the magnificence of the “Christian Müller orgel“. But we felt that the colours and the contrasts between light and dark in the painting were very close to reality:

According to the museum, the painter had wished to emphasize the grandeur of the pipe organ. Having seen the real object, I can see why he was so impressed with the musical instrument. The Müller organ is considered to be among the most impressive of such organs in the world. The church guide says that “In 1766 Mozart, who was 10 years old at that time, played the Christian Müller organ. Händel played this organ too. The organ counts 5068 pipes and is almost 30 metres high.” When we arrived in the church, the organ was being played and the sound was very heavenly:

While in St. Bavo, I was struck by the contrast between it and Canterbury Cathedral. Canterbury Cathedral was much darker and more ornate; its design a little oppressive. The Dutch church, on the other hand, had a very open and light feel to it. There were huge stained glass windows which allowed a lot of light. The light reflected off the white walls to make the whole church feel welcoming and airy. To me, the Dutch design was much better for bringing people closer to God. To be honest, I was moved to tears by the atmosphere.

For lunch, we first had a coffee near a lovely canal:

During this time, a nearby bridge turned to allow a number of boats that had lined up to pass. The accumulating bikers on both sides of the road waited patiently, although had they biked about 200 meters down the canal they could have crossed at a different bridge.

After the coffee, we visited Grote market in the city centre. We tried some local snacks such as patat with curry sauce and the famous raw haring; the fish was very yummy indeed. For me, the curry sauce was reminiscent of the sauce HongKongers put on fish balls (I miss HongKong-style fish balls!):

Tomorrow, we will leave Amsterdam for Middelburg.


9 responses to “The Great Church of St. Bavo’s Haarlem

  • Ivis

    Nice pictures and nice travel guide. Missing you….

  • steve

    It is great to follow your adventures, Tammy. One tiny thing – I think that fish is spelled ‘herring,’ over here anyway

    • t

      Hello, Steve! The Dutch spelling seems to be “haring”. I will italicize the word to indicate its foreignness. Thank you so much for reading my posts, Steve 🙂

  • Irene

    I can’t ride a bike either…I wish I could though…looks like there’re a lot of fun bike tours around the UK (saw some good ones in the lake district last time). So we either drive (Tom bought a car) or walk…and miss some fun of bicycle-riding!

    The HK sauce for fish balls….yum! 🙂 Enjoy the conference!

  • mio

    I love Amsterdam… got engaged there, and have been back many times. Sounds like you had a great time!

  • Joan

    What lovely photographs! The pipe organ has such beautiful colours; I can only imagine how it fills the space with music. I think you’ve made an excellent photo of this interior shot. Quite a contrast to our experience this evening of playing fiddle music on the boardwalk in Hinton while of the beavers paddles about, chewing enthusiastically on leaves.

  • Kevin

    It is interesting to study cathedral design because it combines acoustics, architecture and psychology – to inspire awe in its visitors. Apparently, in your case, it worked. Love that coffee on a piece of log. What is patat (looks like chips to me; is “patat” related to “potato”?)

  • Penny Sandford

    Dear Tammy,

    Being a guide in the St Bavo church Haarlem myself, I was curious to read your comment after your visit. I, too, am overwhelmed by the atmosphere each time I’m there.
    Please allow me to correct one of your observations! The organ in P.Saenredam’s (1565-1607) painting is no longer there. The black pedal organ painting on the wall is to indicate the position of the organ in the 16th century. The Christian Müller organ was built in 1735-38! P.Saenredam was lying in his grave (in the church!) when the CM organ was built.
    Glad you liked the church anyway, best regards, PS

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