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Visiting the Nieuwe Kerk, Delft, The Netherlands: towered structure long associated with Dutch Royalty

Updated on January 8, 2013
Flag of The Netherlands
Flag of The Netherlands | Source
The Nieuwe Kerk from the Verwersdijk.
The Nieuwe Kerk from the Verwersdijk. | Source
Nieuwe Kerk, Delft
Nieuwe Kerk, Delft | Source
William the Silent
William the Silent | Source
Louise de Coligny
Louise de Coligny | Source
Queen Wilhemina by Thérèse Schwartze
Queen Wilhemina by Thérèse Schwartze | Source
Map location of Delft
Map location of Delft | Source

Up toward the sky and deeply into the past

Despite its name, the Nieuwe Kerk (1), Delft, The Netherlands, is actually rather old, and has been long associated with Dutch Royalty.

Some history and features

In fact, the Nieuwe Kerk 's association with the country's reigning House of Orange predates the House's Royal status, and goes back at least as far as William of Orange (1534-1584; Dutch: Willem van Oranje ), often known as William the Silent (Dutch: Willem de Zwijger), for whom The Wilhelmus , the Dutch national anthem, is named, and who is among the most famous personalities entombed at the Nieuwe Kerk (2). His spouse, Louise de Coligny (1555-1620) is also buried here. The current, Dutch Royal family dates from the early 19th century, and its most recent members buried at the Nieuwe Kerk are, chronologically by date of burial, Prince Claus of The Netherlands (1926-2002), Queen Juliana of The Netherlands (1909-2004) and Prince Bernhard of The Netherlands (1911-2004). The longest-reigning Dutch monarch, Queen Wilhelmina of The Netherlands (1880-1962; reigned 1890-1948) is also buried here.

Other, prominent personalities buried at the Nieuwe Kerk include jurist and writer Hugo Grotius (1583-1645).

The building was commenced in 1396 and completed in 1496, which was before the Reformation period which was subsequently to mark the history of The Netherlands so profoundly.

Among its most striking features is its 108.75 metre tower. In The Netherlands, only the tower of Utrecht's Domkerk is higher. Visitors familiar with Utrecht might see some similarities between these two towers.

Interestingly, it was the same architect, Jacob van der Borch, who designed them both. The tower at Utrecht is 112.5 metres tall, so the Nieuwe Kerk 's tower does not fall far behind in height, and, indeed, still dominates the skyline of the Downtown area of Delft.

I have included a picture of the Nieuwe Kerk seen from a canal known as the Verwersdijk . In fact, the Nieuwe Kerk 's distinct tower features in a famous work, View of Delft , by local painter Johannes Vermeer (1632-1675).

It is worth noting, though, that the spire at the top of the tower actually dates from 1872, the work of architect Pierre Cuypers, who worked in keeping with the building's Gothic style. Thus, when Architect van der Borch worked on Utrecht's Domkerk , its tower was originally envisaged as being significantly higher than that of Delft's Nieuwe Kerk .

With its frequent, pointed arch features and pinnacles into which the lines of the tower taper, the church building's Gothic style is very evident. Some of the bells in the tower date from the 17th century. A carillon regularly plays at 15 minute intervals and can be clearly heard in the Downtown area. Carillon concerts are held on summer evenings.

The tower may be climbed by visitors on weekdays, although there are restrictions on Sundays, out of respect for the church services held in the building. From a lookout point on the tower 85 metres high the cities of The Hague and Rotterdam are visible. (Visitors are advised to note, before obtaining a ticket that there is no elevator, and that there is a total of 376 steps to climb!)

The building contains an organ by Jonathan Baetz, built between 1837 and 1839. Organ concerts are regularly held.

The Nieuwe Kerk is situated at Markt 80 , Delft, in the Dutch province of South Holland (Dutch: Zuid-Holland).


(1) Since the Dutch form of the name has long been used in English publications, I have retained it in this article, rather than substitute 'New Church'.

(2) William the Silent was assassinated at Delft in 1584 by a man claiming to be a French Protestant refugee; The Netherlands' traditional openness to those who have suffered religious persecution dates from several centuries ago. Because of the sudden nature of William's passing, the family burial site at Breda was not easily available, and thus began a long tradition of interments of members of the House of Orange at Delft's Nieuwe Kerk .

Also worth seeing

In Delft itself, the many visitor attractions include: the City Hall (Dutch: Stadhuis ) dating from the 17th century; the Oude Kerk ; the city's many outlets for the sale of ceramics, for which Delft has long been a leading manufacturing centre; the Walloon Church (Dutch: Waalse Kerk); and many others.

The Hague (Dutch: Den Haag ; distance: 15 kilometres); visitor attractions include the Binnenhof and the Hofvijver , the Peace Palace (Dutch: Vredespaleis ); the Huis ten Bosch; and many others.


How to get there: Airlines flying to Amsterdam Airport from New York include Delta Airlines and KLM. The Dutch railroad company NS (Nederlandse Spoorwegen) maintains rail services from Amsterdam to Delft . There is car rental availability at Amsterdam airport. Please check with the airline or your travel agent for up to date information. Please note that some facilities may be withdrawn, without notice.

MJFenn is an independent travel writer based in Ontario, Canada.


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