Thursday, June 21, 2012

A Holy Day

Earlier in the week the forecast was calling for a rainy day so I put off visiting churches until today.  Fortunately the forecast was not nearly as bad as predicted and only a little rain fell.  After a lazy morning and leisurely lunch with Julie during her break, I visited Grote Kerk of St Bavo (Great Church of St Bavo) which is less than a minute walk from the hotel and right on the market square.

The present church was built between 1370 and 1538.  In 1559 it was consecrated as a cathedral and served as the town's catholic church until the Reformation when it was converted to Protestantsim in 1578.  The church floor is covered entirely of gravestones...1500 in total with the oldest dating back to the 15th century.

The organ is definitely a must see in the church.  It has 5068 pipes and some very famous composers have played the organ including Mendelssohn, Händel and the 10 yeaer old Motzart.

While there is much to see and discover in Haarlem, the beauty of the town is you can get from one end to another in about a 20 minute walk.  So, after the Grote Kerk, I stopped for a little gelato for the stroll to the next church...the gelato has no calories if you eat it while walking of course.  Along the way, I passed Haarlemers and visitors on the main shopping street and stumbled upon many charming little streets.

Next stop...Saint Bavo's Cathedral...yep the same saint as the Grote Kerk.  St Bavo is the patron saint for Haarlem hence the reason the two grandest churches in town are named after him.  St Bavo's Cathedral was built between 1895 and 1930 and consecrated as a Basilica in 1948.

The Basiliek (as the locals say) is the head of the Catholic diocese of Haarlem. It is currently undergoing a €23 million renovation so most of the interior was covered with scaffolding...just another reason to revisit Haarlem.

This evening I was invited to join Julie's class on a dinner cruise on the canal. What fun...cruising on the River Spaarne while enjoying wine, tapas and good company! This was a bit different than my canal cruise as we went out into more of the local areas and saw homes and more cows...guess the milk for the cheese has to come from somewhere.


Our dinner canal cruise arrived back in time for us to once again enjoy a tradition dating back to the 16th century in Haarlem.  Every evening between 9:00pm and 9:30pm, the bells at the Grote Kerk of St Bavo ring to alert the town's citizens the town gates are closing. 


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