During the Reformation, Amsterdam’s Catholic government was overthrown by Protestant rebels. Although this coup was ultimately bloodless, eventually the Dutch government decided to completely ban Catholicism, and confiscated land from several religious groups in order to secure Protestant control. For the next 200 years Catholicism remained officially outlawed in the Netherlands, forcing its practitioners underground.
Instead of converting to Protestantism or fleeing the Netherlands, many Catholics decided to continue observing their faith in secret and built several clandestine churches throughout Amsterdam. In the late 17th century, a congregation from central Amsterdam began working on a new place of worship in de Wallen. This concealed church was constructed inside the three highest storeys of a canal house, and would later come to be known as Ons’ Lieve Heer op Solder (Our Lord in the Attic).
From the outside, their new quarters resembled an unassuming town house and could be accessed via a small door located on an adjacent alleyway. While other churches around Amsterdam had been modified to reflect modest Protestant beliefs, their chapel was covered with vibrant Catholic iconography and painted in deep, beautiful colors. Apart from its main chapel, the church also contained a simple confession booth, kitchen, and living areas.
Over the years, several generations of Catholics worshiped at this church, and secretly renovated its interior. When the ban on Catholicism was lifted by the Dutch government in 1853, Catholics were once again permitted to worship publicly and began building conventional churches. This meant that their former, clandestine properties became unnecessary, and many were eventually abandoned. Fortunately, in 1888 Ons’ Lieve Heer op Solder was converted into a museum by a private organization and has remained perfectly preserved ever since.
Today, Ons’ Lieve Heer Op Solder is open to the public and its chapel regularly holds Catholic services.
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