History & Art

Obrechtkerk building

Portions from: “the Plighted Cathedral”, The Church of Our Lady of the Rosary on the Obrechtstraat in Amsterdam by AJ Looyenga. This study also appeared in the 92nd yearbook (2000) of the Amstelodamum Society on pages 148 to 185.

The architects
In 1900, the church board of the mother church, the St. Willibrordus, commissioned the Cuypers architectural firm to design a new church. The work was performed by Joseph Cuypers and his associate Jan Stuyt. With partnerships, it is always an intriguing question who is responsible for what. Is the Rosary Church primarily a work by Cuypers or Stuyt or is it really a common project? It is now often assumed that the church is primarily a work by Stuyt.

The building
In January 1907 both architects finished the fourth design; this design underlies the current building, a Neo-Romanesque basilica with a two-tower front, of truly cathedral allure.
The church is not oriented, but with the choir facing west.
The building comprises a three-aisle ship of five bays, a transept with side aisles on the “west side” and a choir consisting of a central choir of one bay and a semicircular absis and side choirs of the same structure. On the “east side” of the two transept arms, absides have been applied. The intersection is marked by a square celebration tower with a high tent roof. Center aisle and side aisles are separated by square pillars. The central ship is covered by a kinked cassette ceiling. The side aisles and side choirs have flat ceilings; the absides are covered by semi-domes.
The wide portal with its saw lists and inscription is impressive. This portal becomes the arcades in the substructure of the towers, via an intermediate section of the same shape. These arcades, which rest on freestanding columns behind which iris have been fitted, have been saved in the wall, creating the impression that the wall is double-scaled. The same is also indicated, albeit less pronounced, in the high niches with their richly profiled Irises, which are arranged higher in the towers. Such a double wall has been widely used by Joseph Cuypers in the Nieuwe Sint Bavo in Haarlem.
The decoration is relatively austere and is mainly determined by varying use of materials. Examples of this are the white bands in the tower helmets and the decoration underneath the dials, formed by square white blocks, some of which are unadorned and others contain a rosette. Together they form a series of cross-shaped patterns. This is a playful elaboration of the checkerboard motif of an earlier design.
The gable should have been sculpted according to the first designs. Instead, an arty brick zigzag pattern with alternating vertical rows of rosettes and French lilies was applied. Sculpture is only sporadically found: on the corners of the portal we see two animals, on the left an eagle, on the right an elephant, both are symbols of Christ. Then the cornerstones of the portal and top façade with a cross motif can be mentioned. A keystone with vegetable motifs has also been placed under the rose window. At the transition from the first to the second articulation of the towers, dragon-shaped water scrapers have been installed on the four corners. These spouts and the two animals on the portal show striking

similarities with the outside sculpture on the cathedral in Haarlem, manufactured in the artwork places of Cuypers & Co in Roermond. It can therefore be assumed that the sculpture on the Obrechtkerk also comes from this studio. A representation in mosaic or tile picture should probably have been placed in the arched field of the portal. Nothing has ever happened. What did come about was a tile tableau in the gable with a representation of the coronation of Mary.

The side walls, which barely catch the eye from the street, have been treated very simply. As with the first designs, the choir part was carefully composed. We see a stepped structure, formed by the three absides and a staircase shape that is made up of the various hipped roofs that have been installed here. This starts with the sacristies, then the roofs of the transept follow and the whole ends in the tower roof. The hipped roofs of the bays of the side ears form an intermediary. The entire choir building is symmetrical in design. Yet this symmetry is broken at a number of places where it is functional. Both sacristies have two windows, on the right they consist of three windows, on the left only two. Perhaps they wanted to make it so clear that the right sacristy was the main sacristy. More important is the presence of a stair tower between the main sacristy and the right-side choir; symmetry is put into perspective here in a fascinating way.

What strikes you when entering the church is the colorful finish. The midship pillars are clad in marble plates with gray, green and blue markings. They carry arches of alternating red brick and white natural stone. These arches are edged with a brick-edged border, in which a square-shaped motif with gold-colored frames. In the archivolts there are also rosettes in the brick section. The arch turns in the central nave are done in clean red brick work, above which the central nave wall is plastered. The belted and mural arches in the side aisles have the same alternation of brick and natural stone, only the grading is missing here. This checkered structure can also be found at the wall slats in the side aisles, at the cross-pillars and at the pillars in the choir. Joseph Cuypers applied this decoration scheme a few times later and later abandoned it. Jan Stuyt, on the other hand, used it frequently in his Neo-Roman works, mostly in painted form, but sometimes also in alternating building materials. The color blue dominates in the kinked cassette ceiling of the central aisle, with beige on the beams. Two different cross motifs and a star-shaped ornament alternate in the planes. The side aisles are covered by flat cassette ceilings with blue surfaces. Interestingly, the cassettes are placed diagonally on the side aisles of the fifth central ship bay, which could also be seen as part of the side aisles of the transept. The floor of the priest’s choir with beautiful marble inlays in the style of Italian Roman deserves attention. Under the priest’s choir is a crypt; however, this does not show anything special.

What significance did the architectural concept realized in this church have for Cuypers and Stuyt after they had both gone their own way? That is different for both. Joseph Cuypers returns once more to the concept of the Obrechtkerk at his monumental St. Quirinus in Halsteren (N. Br.) 1912, where he follows the Amsterdam church in many ways. Instead of the kinked cassette cover in the central nave, however, he installs a wooden barrel vault here, while covering the aisles with stone cross rib vaults. Cuypers follows other roads after this building. Stuyt, however, repeatedly returns to the construction concept realized in the Obrechtkerk, albeit in a form of austerity. His most monumental work in this spirit is the Holy Family Church in The Hague (1920 – 1922). This shows great similarities with the Obrechtkerk: a Neo-Romanesque basilica with a two-tower front, internally the central nave is covered by a kinked cassette ceiling. A crossing tower is missing, but it was initially intended.


Source: “Art in the Obrecht” by Hanneke Franken in collaboration with Gerard Bartman and Paul Overhaus.

Between 1860 and 1910 we see a revival of the life of faith and, because of the growing number of believers, also the need for larger church buildings. In order to give shape and support to the revival of the faith, a connection was sought with the Middle Ages, which period was considered the pinnacle of Christian culture. The architectural style of the medieval cathedrals, the Gothic, was brought back to life and resulted in what we now call Neo-Gothic. The decorative arts, which could have unfolded in the Gothic cathedrals, once again attracted attention. Murals, sculptures, metalwork, paramentism and stained glass were found in the church buildings. Initially, people did not go beyond repetitions and variations of the style elements and motifs typical of Gothic style. Around 1890, however, with Amsterdam as its center, a movement in motion in profane visual art, which clearly had a mystical impact. From a religious experience, an attempt was made to express social and community life in both monumental and symbolic terms. A search was made for decorative applications. In this respect, our Rosary Church, the Obrecht Church, designed by Jan Stuyt in collaboration with Jos Cuypers, offers an example of seeking to arrive with, or in spite of, these style elements in a new and balanced form of perception of space. Around 1920 a renewal of the life of faith took place. Devotional practices lost in significance and spirituality was sought. Ecclesiastical art also underwent the influence of this liturgical movement. In our Rosary Church you can see important works of art from both the generation before 1920, such as from Willem Mengelberg and Kees Dunselman, and from the innovative artists from between the two world wars. 

The artists and their contributions to the church are listed below in alphabetical order. 

Mari Andriessen (1897-1979)
Wooden Mary altarpiece in the Maria chapel
The middle panel represents the coronation of Mary.
The left panel shows from top to bottom:
a) the Annunciation (announcement of Christ’s birth)
b) the visitation (Mary’s visit to Elisabeth)
c) Christ’s birth
The right panel from top to bottom:
d) the mission in the temple
e ) one of the Stations of the Cross: Jesus meets Mary
f) Mary and John under the cross
Wooden altar cross with bronze corpus initially stood on the altar of the Sacred Heart Chapel and is currently in the parsonage.
Stone statue of Francis is in the left transept

Jan Eloy Brom (1891-1954)
The bronze pulpit (1925) was donated by the parishioners on the occasion of the golden priest’s festival of pastor Serbrock. It is not known whether Stuyt had any involvement with this work. It was carried out by the studio of the Fermin firm in The Hague.

Kees Dunselman (1878-1937)

Dome mosaic in the apse
Here one sees the throning Christ, with scepter and apple of the kingdom and a burning heart. Three cherubim heads at his feet and two angels kneeling beside him. Above his head is the dove, which symbolizes the Holy Spirit, and above it a hand coming from heaven,

indicating God the Father. The performance is derived from the Maiestas Domini motif, derived from Byzantine tradition, supplemented by the typical nineteenth-century motif of the Sacred Heart, a devotion strongly stimulated by the church at the time. Christ’s throne is flanked by Mary and Joseph. Mary undoubtedly acts here as a advocate for humanity and as a personification of the church. Saint Joseph was named patron of the entire church in 1870 and is probably depicted for that reason. On the left you see two female saints, Clara and Theresa of Avila and on the right two male saints, namely Peter and Francis. Why these four saints are depicted here is unclear. Perhaps it was the patron saints of the donors. The Trinity is at the center, Christ is literally represented as a mediator between God and man. In addition, however, the mediation of the church is also indicated by the figures of Mary, Joseph and the other saints.
Very special about this image is that the impression is created that the work is a mosaic; in reality it is a paint job!

The side walls of the choir:
On the left we see a representation of the Last Supper of Christ with his disciples, in which the most important sacrament, the Eucharist, is instituted. The painting on the right choir wall wants to show the institution of the leadership of the church. It shows the transfer of the keys to Peter.

In the ceiling of the crossing tower: the sun, the moon and the signs of the zodiac. The idea was that Christ’s salvation included the entire world and that the cosmos sang God’s praise.

In the side aisles of the ship: the fourteen stations of the Cross.

JM van Hardeveld
In the back of the church, in front of the portal is a holy water basin, designed by this architect; the basin is made of polished Bavarian granite.

Inka Klinckhard (1922-2016)
The Christmas group, consisting of 15 wooden statues, was made by her in the years 1953-1956.

Jan Kriege (1884-1944)
Silver and copper candlesticks on either side of the tabernacles of the main altar, the Maria altar and the altar in the H. Hartkapel.

Willem Mengelberg
The stained glass windows in the apse.
In each of these seven windows, the means of grace of the church, the Sacraments, are represented by standing winged figures. From left to right we see: the priesthood, the confession, the Confirmation, the Eucharist, the anointing of the sick, baptism and marriage.

Hildegard Michaëlis (1900-1982)
Tapestry behind the main altar is built in gray tones; she also designed the purple tapestry that is used in the Passion time.

Joep Nicolaas (1897-1972)
The Hubertus window (1928) is in the chapel’s day chapel. It has six panels with:
a) top left: Coronation of Mary, Queen of the Rosary;
b) in the upper center: the good shepherd, referring to Hoosemans as the shepherd of the parish; the shepherd’s job is to search for, find, and release the lost sheep;
c) top right: H. Hubertus meets the deer: the ‘calling vision’ from the legend of Hubertus;
d) bottom left: a rose bush with rosary, referring to the name of the church. The shrub has five white roses that represent the happy secrets of the rosary; five red roses representing the sad secrets and five golden roses representing the glorious secrets;
e) in the lower center: the lost sheep is returned to a safer place;
f) bottom right: H. Hubertus as bishop, this is the patron of our pastor: Hubertus Hoosemans;

John Rädecker (1885-1956)
Golden pigeon in bas relief in a green marble slab behind the pulpit. The pigeon is the symbol of the Holy Spirit. A wooden statue ‘Madonna with child’, probably also intended for the Rosary Church, was rejected by the Episcopal Committee for Art as being voluptuous and is now, large-scale, in the Kröller-Müller Museum in Otterlo.

Otto van Rees (1884-1957)
Paintings of the niches and the dome of the Pieta Chapel;
After a long period of preliminary studies in 1931, Otto van Rees completed the performances on the walls of the Pieta Chapel. Around 1950 the chapel was radically renovated and furnished as a chapel for the worship of Mary of Fatima, after which the work of Van Rees was no longer visible due to overpainting and covering. The original situation was restored in 2005. The chapel is seen as one of the most important works by Van Rees. After considering the preserved preliminary studies, we can assume that the chapel was created in close collaboration with the then pastor, Hubertus Hoosemans. Van Rees has shaped a unique religious program. The figures radiate contemplation and thereby give the chapel meaning. He himself writes: “I have tried not to push myself and the painting to the fore,

Albert Servaes (1883-1966)
Painting of Mary and the Holy Trinity on the left side wall of the Maria Chapel: Mary as the daughter of God the Father, mother of God the Son and the bride of the Holy Spirit. Charcoal drawing of ’the crucified Christ’ in the chapel’s day chapel.

Jan Stuyt (1868-1934)
The front of the organ built by Vermeulen in 1917/1918. It consists of an afterwards slightly simplified middle section of five pipe fields and two high towers of a hexagonal model. It is decorated with carved tendrils.
The high altar is a ciborium altar, that is, an altar with a roof. This type of altar, developed in Italy in the early Middle Ages, became very popular again in the twentieth century. Already in the earliest design (1901) for our church a ciborium altar was drawn, which, however, deviates from the executed altar in the cross-shaped covering. The altar designed by Stuyt has a round arch on the front and back, above which a pediment. The construction of all this goes back to the gable of the church facade. Even the diamond-shaped decoration is related. At the top of the forefront is a relief of Mary with the Christ child, a representation that shows great similarity with the tile panel in the gable of the auxiliary church (the building to the right of the church).

Rene van Tol (1958)
This parishioner painted the Annunciation in 2004, the year of the centenary of our parish. In 2014 he painted Rust on the Flight to Egypt, shown in the right-hand transept.

Ernst Voorhoeve
Two seven-armed wooden candlesticks next to the high altar.

Matthieu Wiegman (1886-1971)
Four paintings in the lantern; on the absis side: the coronation of Mary by God the father and God the son before the Holy Spirit and the Angels. On the other hand: Saint Michael who conquers the seven-headed dragon. Angels are depicted on the side walls.
Murals in the Holy Heart Chapel depicting the Holy Heart (Christ), surrounded by angels with suffering attributes; one of them holds the chalice of Getsémané, the place where Jesus stayed the night before his suffering. Bottom left an angel with a crown: “my kingdom is not of this world.” Bottom right an angel with a scepter.

Murals in the two transepts
In the left the wedding of Cana, where Jesus performed his first miracle. Above the confessional: ‘The Good Shepherd’
Behind the statue of Francis of Mari Andriessen a painting was designed by Wiegman and executed by Piet Worm with images from nature. Francis felt connected to everything created.
Painting above the entrance of the Sacristy: a painted decoration around a plaster relief, depicting: “OL Vrouwe van Goeden Raad.”

In the right the “miraculous multiplication of bread” transepts
above the confessional a painting of “the return of the lost Son” as well as an extreme right a cock, which on the one hand refers to Peter’s repentance, and on the other to the dawn of salvation: repentance . Striking animals on the right and left that represent evil.

The stained glass windows in the two transepts
In the left the window ‘Maria Middelares’ or Maria Queen of the Angels. The left window in the right transept refers to the sacrament of the Eucharist and the relationship of God with the people and represents from bottom to top:
a) Moses with the stone tablets
b) the manna in the desert
c) the fulfillment of the Law
d) above a whole a cavalry group
The right window in the right transept is about the word and shows from bottom to top:
a) Saint Willibrord preaching the gospel
b) An angel with the gospel book
c) The transfiguration: the glorification on the mountain

The rose window at the back of the church
The Rose window above the portal deals with Christ’s resurrection. The middle part shows the risen Christ with the signs of the cross in his hands. Below a medallion with the Calvary. The upper medallions show angels with the suffering attributes. On either side of the Christ Medallion: Adam and Eve, who thereby represent all who died before the coming of Christ and who await redemption in the limbo (the “descended to hell” from the credo).

Three small stained glass windows in the corridor connecting to the sacristy representing the three divine virtues:
a) angel with suffering attributes (faith)
b) angel taking care of a sinner (love)
c) angel with palm branch and anchor (hope)

Five small stained glass windows in the St Jozef Chapel

Willem van der Winkel (1887 – 1932)
Wooden statue of Saint Theresia in the Theresia Chapel and the St. Joseph statue at the Joseph Chapel.

Nico Witteman (1900-1982)
Communion bench at the St. Joseph altar with motifs from the litany of St. Joseph with representations from right to left:
a) Joseph as groom of the mother of God: when Joseph was chosen to be the groom of Mary as a sign his staff began to flourish; the lily is the sign of purity and purity;
b) Joseph as an example for workmen (carpentry tools);
c) Joseph as protector of the Holy Church;
d) Joseph as a glorious descendant of David (crown, harp and star of David);
e) Joseph as comfort for the unfortunate, hope for the sick, patron of the dying (attributes of suffering).

Communion bench at the Maria altar with motifs from the litany of Mary with representations from left to right:
a) morning star
b) golden house
c) tower of David
d) mystical rose
e) spiritual barrel
Two golden patenes, Chalice, Silver baptismal bowl, One dove on the lid of the baptismal font, Tabernacle on the altar of Mary

Cor de Wolf (1889-1963)
In the hall of the presbytery he provided the mural, depicting a folk scene: a journey of hell through past fairground and church to heaven

Piet Worm
Towards the end of the 1920s, he assisted Matthieu Wiegman on the scaffolding with his work for the Rosary Church and executed one of his designs, namely the Franciscus wall. He designed the baptistery and made the paintings (1940-1941). There are three murals by his hand there:
a) Christ’s baptism in the center, accompanied by an appearance of God
b) On the left a painting with the parable of five wise and five foolish virgins, after which parable the burning candle and the white candle a robe, which is handed over to the baptist after baptism.
c) On the right wall the healing of a possessed person with a quote from the baptismal liturgy: the text of one of the exorcisms.

Lambertus Zijl (1866-1947)
He designed the panels for the main communion bank, on which twelve deer are depicted.

In addition to these works of art, we can find the following works in the church:
a) In the middle behind the main altar: a 15th century crucifix
b) Plaster factory statue of St. Anthony of Padua at the St. Anthony altar
c) Above the portal a painting hangs, depicting Saint Sebastian, probably from 19th century German Romanticism. The maker is unknown.
d) Left behind the Pieta Chapel: a plaster Pieta from a French studio.
e) At the back left of the church: a plaster ‘Maria of Fatima’ statue from a Paris’ studio.
f) There is a stained glass window with a pigeon motif in the ceiling above the baptismal font. Around it the symbols of the four evangelists are painted, analogous to the four animals from the vision of the prophet Ezekiel: Matthew the man, Mark the lion, Luke the Ox, John the eagle.


On Sunday, March 25, 2012 it is T. Jos. Vermeulen organ (1918) in the Obrechtkerk in Amsterdam again in use. The organ was restored and reconstructed by Pels & Van Leeuwen Kerkorgelbouw BV in ‘s-Hertogenbosch.

In 1918, T. Jos Vermeulen (fa. Ypma & Co) from Alkmaar built an organ for the Obrechtkerk, officially the church of Our Lady of the Most Holy Rosary, based on the pure-pneumatic cone-drawer system. The organ was given a freestanding console and was delivered with 27 registers spread over two keyboards and a free pedal. The organ case was made after a design by the architect of the church, Jan Stuyt.

In 1939 changes were made to the front to make the rose window stand out better.

In 1957, at the insistence of musicologist and choir conductor Jan Bank, the instrument was changed by Vermeulen to the then prevailing insights. The organ was electrified and the disposition converted into a neo-Baroque atmosphere. Strings had to clear the field and expressions were removed. The work was completed in 1967, on the advice of Jan Bank and Bernard Bartelink, and the organ was given a back work in neo-baroque style. On this occasion a part of the sole works was renewed. Over the years, overdue maintenance has taken its toll and the failures have increased.

In 2002, the first contours for a restoration / reconstruction plan were drawn up by consultant Jos Laus. The rugwerk would be removed, but the position function was wanted. The plan provided for the placement of the positive in the organ case between main work and swelling. A plan that, incidentally, was already proposed by Vermeulen and Stuyt in 1916, but failed because of the war conditions.

During the recent restoration by Pels & Van Leeuwen, the original disposition for head and swell work was reconstructed, all the more so because 90% of the original pipe work was present in cut or not cut form. For the new positive, much of the 1960s pipework could be reused after applying expressions and re-toning. New pipe work was made where necessary. The console of 1957 has been replaced by the old console of the organ of the Maria van Jessekerk in Delft. T. Jos. H. Vermeulen placed this three-keyboard console in 1930 with the pneumatization of the Maarschalkerweerd organ. The console, which was overcompleted after the reconstruction of the Delft organ, was revised in style and adapted to the Amsterdam situation. The organ currently has 36 registers spread over three manuals and a free pedal.


Main manual I ‘C-g3
Prestant 16
Prestant 8
Flute harmonic 8
Salicional 8 Hollow
pipe 8
Octave 4
Stirring flute 4
Octave 2
Mix II-V
Trumpet Harmonic 8

Positive manual II ‘C-g3
Bourdon 16
Salicyional 8
Bourdon 8
Prestant 4
Stirring flute 4
Nasard 2 2/3
Mixture III
Echo trumpet 8

Manual III Expressive C-g3
Bourdon 16
Violin Prestant 8
Viola di Gamba 8
Voix Céleste 8
Bourdon 8
Flûte Octaviante 4
Violine 4
Sexquialtera II
Piccolo 2
Basson Oboe 8
Vox Humana 8

Pedal C-f1
Double bass 16
Subbas 16 Quint bass
10 2/3
Octave bass 8
Open Flute 4
Trumpet 16
Trombone 8

Mechanical registers
Manual couplings I + II, I + III, II + III
Pedal couplings P + I, P + II, P + III
Octave couplings I + II 16 ′, II + II 16 ′, II + III 16 ′, III + III 16 ′ , I + I 4 ′
Swell box Manual III
Tremolo II
Tremolo III
Fixed combinations: Tutti FF Forte Mezzoforte Piano
Electronic setzer combination