POINTS OF INTEREST
Amsterdam's oldest church has evolved over three centuries to look as it does today. What began as a wooden chapel in 1306 was built up to a hall church and then a cross basilica between 1366 and 1566 (and fully restored between 1955 and 1979). It was violently looted during the Reformation and stripped of its altars and images of saints—though the looters did leave the 14th-century paintings still visible on its wooden roof, as well as the Virgin Mary stained-glass windows that had been set in place in 1550. The famed Vater-Müller organ was installed in 1726. Don't miss the carved choir stalls that illustrate proverbs relating to cardinal sins, among other things. Within this open, atmospheric space, there's a gravestone for Rembrandt's wife Saskia van Uylenburgh and also for Kiliaen van Rensselaer, one of the Dutch founders of what is now New York. Outside, embedded in the sidewalk by the door, is a bronze plaque of hand cupping a naked breast–-it's one of a series of pieces of art anonymously placed throughout Amsterdam by an artist in the 1990s. The Oude Kerk is as much an exhibition space as a place of worship, hosting top-notch modern art shows. Its carillon is played every Tuesday at 2 and every Saturday at 4—the best place to listen is the bridge in front of the church. Prior to the Reformation, the Oude Kerk was known as the "living room," because peddlers displayed their goods in the church and beggars slept there.