Whenever family and friends visit me in Amsterdam, I always bring them to one of my favorite local secrets: a hidden church in Amsterdam. Our Lord in the Attic is a small museum a bit off the beaten path. It’s is one of my favorite museums in Amsterdam as it does a fantastic of teaching about the Dutch way of life and Dutch history. Keep reading for the history of his hidden church, tips for visiting Our Lord in the Attic, and how to save on admission fees by visiting Onze Lieve heer op Zolder for free!
History of Our Lord in the Attic
The beautiful canal house at 40 Oudezijds Voorburgwal has a secret: a hidden church in the attic! You might have passed this house and thought nothing of it,
Although the Netherlands proclaimed that there was religious freedom in the Dutch Golden Age, this was not necessarily the case for Catholics who were stifled underneath the rule of a Protestant government. At this time, many Catholic churches were converted into Protestant churches or left abandoned. Mass was not allowed, however technically, people could celebrate their faith however they like in private.
A prominent merchant of Catholic faith owned this beautiful canal house as well as other nearby houses. He specifically purchased the nearby houses (2 of them to be precise) in order to make space for a church in the attic (next to his storeroom).
What I love about this museum is that it’s furnished with original and period pieces, so you get a great idea of what life was back in this time. (The beds puzzled me for a while.) As you walk around the house, you can easily imagine yourself at this time and I feel the drama of exploring the house on your own without a tour really adds to the experience.
The church itself is a beautiful example of a Dutch church with its marble pillars and bright pink paint on the various rails. (Be sure to look in the storeroom next to the church on the top floor to enjoy the beautiful view over Amsterdam!)
You’ll enter the house through a tunnel underneath the basement prior to finding a door that leads up to the attic where around 150 Catholics could pray. The house even includes a house for a priest who appears to live in a separate house. (His quarters are included in the tour.) I come away with each visiting appreciating the freedoms that we have today in the Netherlands and many other countries.
Notes about visiting Our Lord in the Attic
The museum itself usually takes 1-2 hours to go through depending on how long you like to linger. As soon as you enter, you’ll be given a headset (available in most major languages) that you can hold to your ear as you go through the museum. It narrates the history as well as helps you appreciate the details of this finely decorated house from the Golden Ages.
It’s rarely crowded here, but I always like coming on a weekday. It’s popular with Dutch residents on Wednesdays and weekends (the museum is open most days; check hours).
Something that I would recommend knowing is to avoid wearing open toe shoes. As you will be walking on the original floors, you’re required to put on shoe covers, so I’d recommend wearing closed toe shoes to make it easier to wear these shoe covers.
If you’re not good with narrow stairs or disabled, this museum might be difficult for you. The stairs aren’t that tall, however, as with many old Dutch homes, they’re narrow and steep. For the best view over the church from the top pew, you’ll need to climb approximately four staircases. (I would not recommend it for anyone in a wheelchair.)
My favorite room in the canal house is always the cooking kitchen. Many pass through as it’s not as lavish as other rooms,
Admission fees to Ons’ Lieve Heer op Solder (and how to save!)
Admission fees are 11.50 per adult (2019 prices). This can seem a bit steep, however, if you have the Museumkaart (a local card that includes admission to most Dutch museums that can be sold to tourists; worth it if you visit 5-7 museums within 30 days or live in the Netherlands.)
If you’re just visiting, this hidden church is included in the
If you’re Catholic (or on a budget), you can attend Mass at the church on Sunday mornings on the first Sunday of each month for free. Services begin at 11 am and last an hour. You must arrive around 10:30 am if you wish to attend.