It was Open Monuments Day 2018 a couple of weeks ago. Thousands of historical buildings around the country were open to public for free. I took this FREE opportunity to visit one of the largest churches in the Netherlands, newly renovated and the most stunning in Haarlem.
Kathedrale Basiliek Sint Bavo or the Cathedral Basilica of Saint Bavo when translated, is the main cathedral for the Roman Catholic Diocese of Haarlem-Amsterdam located right here in Leidsevaart, on the outskirt of Haarlem city center. It is widely known as the Nieuwe Bavo by the locals and now Kathedraal Haarlem* is its official new name.
Not to be confused with another church in Haarlem called the Grote Kerk or Sint Bavo (translation: Great Church or Saint Bavo Church) located at Grote Markt.
In 1893, Joseph Cuypers (1861-1949) was commissioned to build this majestic fairytale castle-like cathedral. He was the son of Dr. Pierre J.H. Cuypers, the architect behind the world renown Rijksmuseum and Amsterdam Central Station. Kathedraal Haarlem was built between 1895 and 1930 in three different periods due to budget constraints. Consequently, the architectural designs emulate several styles such as neo-Gothic, Jugendstil (art nouveau) and elements of the Amsterdam School and Berlage. Without a doubt, the transition between these styles fit together exquisitely.The interior of Kathedraal Haarlem is famous for its large stained glass windows and glittering mosaics which reflect the revolving sunlight throughout the day. Many symbolic elements have been elaborated in great details. Look closely and you will discover mystical characters on the walls. Accomplished artists from the past and present have left their traces in this imposing structure. Such examples include the beautiful blue tile panels by Jan Toorop, the glass art by Marc Mulders in the baptistery and the mosaic artwork depicting Moses as a young contemporary man with a herd of goats walking in sneakers by Gijs Frieling. Linger around and admire the seven radiating chapels. You can not miss the shimmering pulpit where the priest preaches. Check out the biggest and most distinguished organ, Willibrord, and three other organs within this cathedral. Do not miss the steps down into the crypt to visit the Cathedral Museum. It is a small museum containing historical artifacts such as paintings, sculptures and liturgical objects from Haarlem’s Catholic past. Additionally, you will find scale models, sample materials and lots of explanation (in Dutch) about the construction, renovation and decoration of this cathedral. Look out for a page of explanation in English available near the museum entrance.A detour visiting Kathedraal Haarlem is a must! You entrance ticket (€4.00) entitles you to an information guide and an audio tour around the church. It also includes access to the Cathedral Museum.
On another note … Since it was Open Monuments Day, the public were able to do two extraordinary activities for a small fee.
The first activity I did was a chance to climb up almost 120 steps on a narrow 70-80cm wide, adequately lit, long spiral stairs to view the ‘Koepel’ (translation: dome) near 62 meters high. The view from the balcony was amazing! You can see how intricately alluring the centuries old architectural details. See photos. I hope my photos do them justice.
The other activity was a guided tour to climb the clock tower. It was 274 steps from ground level, with two stops to reach the rooftop. The climb was a little narrower and darker than the previous tower. I felt claustrophobic! Upon reaching the rooftop, there were a couple more steps to go up a viewing platform where we embraced 360° panoramic view of Haarlem city. This was the first time I have seen Haarlem from such vantage point. The reward was worth it.
Descending the never ending spiral stairs needed some courage. Not ideal if you are tall in height, carrying a bulky backpack, have large feet and/or afraid of the dark.
Visiting Kathedraal Haarlem should take at about an hour. If you are curious beyond the regular visit, it is worth considering a private guided tour priced at €50 for a maximum group of 10 people. Definitely worth a trip!
Website: http://www.denieuwebavo.nl/entree.html(Dutch only)
Address: Leidsevaart 146. 2014 HE Haarlem.
April – October –> Tuesday to Friday from 11am – 5pm and Saturday from 11am – 2:30pm.
November – March –> Tuesday to Friday from 2pm – 5pm.
Admission Fees: €4.00 for adults, €1 for kids age 4-14 years old and free for kids under 4 years old. Audio tour (in Dutch & English) included! Combination ticket with Grote of Sint Bavokerk at Grote Markt costs €5.00 for adults.
Getting There: About 25 minutes walk from Haarlem Station or 15 minutes walk from Grote Markt. Use https://9292.nl/enif you are using public transportation.
Kathedraal Haarlem* is part of the Dutch Museum Churches, an initiative of Museum Catharijneconvent in Utrecht with fourteen other churches and two synagogues located through out the Netherlands. Each of these churches and synagogues has their own remarkable history, impressive architecture and one of a kind works of art to show for. Definitely worth your attention! https://www.grootstemuseum.nl/en/