The one thing about old European churches is that they were once the burial places of the rich and famous. And still today, in the case of royalty. Delft is a beautiful old city that is also bright and lively and modern at the same time. And its centre is dominated by two very old churches, the Oude Kerk and the Nieuwe Kerk. The Oude Kerk dates from 1246, and the Nieuwe Kerk from 1496. The former is known for its leaning tower (which is currently under scaffolding), and the latter for its tall dominating tower that can be seen from many places across the city. They are very close to one another and you can visit them on the same ticket.
The Oude Kerk still has many old tombstones, epitaphs, and mausoleums within its walls. The floors are quite uneven with these stones, even though they have been worn smooth over the centuries. Most feature very old fonts that are difficult to read, and the predominant images are cherubs and skulls/skeletons. The mausoleums feature marble statues of the deceased, and are very ornate. The most famous resident here is Johannes Vermeer, of ‘Girl with a Pearl Earring’ fame. His mother-in-law bought a family plot in the church, but only she, Vermeer, and 3 infants are buried here, his wife had to be buried at the new church since there was no more space for her. There is a simple flagstone in the floor marking the location. After many fires, explosions, and wars, the church had lost its original stained glass windows, but in the mid-20th century a decision was made to replace them, and they are really stunning. Chairs are set up throughout the church to appreciate them more fully.
The Nieuwe Kerk is more known as the final resting place for the House of Orange, the Netherlands royal family. William the Silent was the first to buried here, and Queen Juliana (d.2004) the most recent. Although the royal crypt is below ground, William’s mausoleum above dominates the church. In one way it’s pretty informal, as he lies at rest in his night clothes and slippers, with a dog at his feet, but the tomb is full of allegorical decoration, including four statues representing the four virtues of the royal family. The church itself does not have the same number of (visible) tombs and grave markers as the old church, but it was still worth a visit nonetheless.
(More pictures to follow)
Monuments: The floor tombstones in the old church are interesting, although quite a few have been worn smooth by centuries of visitors. The new church is really all about William the Silent’s mausoleum.
Grounds: The old church has quite uneven floors due to all the tombstones, whereas the new church is quite easy to get around.
Visitors: Both are on the tourist trail in Delft, so there will always be visitors here. I imagine it gets quite crowded in high season.
Notes: It’s quite dark inside, but shouldn’t be a problem for most digital cameras and phones.
Cemeteries: Oude Kerk and Nieuwe Kerk
Established: Oude Kerk 1246, Nieuwe Kerk 1496
Notable Internments: OK: Piet Hein, admiral who is famous for capturing the Spanish silver fleet, Johannes Vermeer, Anton van Leeuwenhoek. NK: William the Silent (1584) and many other members of the House of Orange
Location: Delft centre
Hours: 09:00-18:00, closed on Sundays