Alteration in Amsterdam, when? In 1578

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Daneel Bouden

The word alteration means change, and in 1578, things changed in Amsterdam; the city finally sided with the protestants in the war with Spain. Finally, because the war had been going on for at least 10 years, many other cities had already joined in the uprising against the King of Spain but not Amsterdam. On the contrary, the city had, for a while, even been the headquarters of the Spanish in Holland.
So how did Amsterdam come to this radical decision? Well, for one reason, the city was overrun with refugees, it was also surrounded by enemies, and the Spanish persecuted the protestants severely, so the populace decided they’d had enough. The catholic administrators were arrested and put out of town, a new protestant administration was put in place, and voila, the pope was out, and Calvin was in.
John CalvinOvernight we had all become protestants. Well, not all, of course, although Catholics were no longer allowed to worship and most of their religious property confiscated. The cities, monasteries, churches and chapels all had become protestant. While the brothers of the order of Saint Francis had been run out of town, all was not lost; yes, the church of St Nicholas had become the “old church” and was now protestant. The chapel builds in honour of the Miracle of Amsterdam renamed: Nieuwe Zijdse Chapel, also now protestant as in fact, all churches in Amsterdam had become protestant.

Our dear Lord in the attic
But catholicism wasn’t fully dead. A businessman called Jan Hartman had one of his buildings converted into a secret church. Catholics met in the attic to worship; it was for 200 years the main place for papists to gather and has now become a museum. It is also a venue for marriage ceremonies. It is called “Onze Lieve Heer op solder” or English (Our dear Lord in the attic). There were other small venues where Catholics could gather to worship as well, and Jan Hartman wasn’t the only businessman who loved to trade with the new protestants but in his heart remained a catholic and secretly provided places for them to meet and worship.
Our dear Lord in the atticIn 1888 the nSaintint-Nicolaas church (opposite central station) was consecrated. It took over the role that the “our dear Lord in the attic” church had held for over 200 years, that of being the primary catholic church in Amsterdam.

Count Willem of Orange Nassau, father of the fatherland
The conversion results were significant; merchants from all over the South of Holland came to the city as King Philip of Spain had conquered Antwerp. Antwerp is an important Belgium harbour, and in those days when no one had ever heard of Rotterdam, even more. Upon its Spanish conquest, the protestants closed the harbour by blocking its entry on Dutch soil. All the trading ships were now made for Amsterdam instead, and consequently, a lot of money was being made here. Another result was that our new protestant overlord, count Willem of Nassau (Germany) and Prince of Orange (France), is the founding father of the Royal Dutch Dynasty. He incidentally was not Dutch; he was German, and so were his brothers. He was initially a counsellor of King Philip and administrated most of Holland for him, including Antwerp. He refused to have the prisoners of war executed as heretics (protestants), and for this, he called upon himself the wrath of the king, who put out a warrant to have him arrested. The war with the Spanish lasted 80 years and is known in Dutch history as the 80-year long war.

De alteration is window number 8 in the Canon of Amsterdam.