Written by Kim Tol
The Big church in Edam is the first thing you see and notice when you enter Edam via Oosthuizen or Purmerend. This Big church has had a special meaning for me for years in terms of pushing my boundaries. As a little girl I was not so charmed by height, but on a class trip to the Big church in Edam I climbed to the top of the church. Each child was allowed to climb up a wooden staircase to admire the view from the highest point of the church. It was so cool, and I was so proud of myself that I had dared to do it. It seems like the house of God gave me a push to see the world from great height for the rest of my life.
Visit the Big church and find out what this church makes you feel. What I always find fascinating about churches in the construction. This hall church was built in a late Gothic style in the first half of the 15th century. At least at that time construction has started. The church building, the tower and the portals were finished in 1518, but a disaster appeared in 1601 and 1699. Two lighting strokes in the tower. The tower was not built so high again during the rebuilding in 1701. Just imagine how many people and manpower contributed to build and rebuild this church. The Big church of Edam is namely one of the largest hall churches in Western Europe.
Just imagine how many people have stepped foot her in this church sine the 15 century. Thinking about the infinity of human life is one of the things that touches me when I am in a church or in another historic building. Especially here in the Big church of Edam, because in this church people have been buried since about 1590 till 1830. After this period Napoleon forbade this and from then on, they only buried at the monumental cemetery that is adjusted to the church. In this church you can see large stone tiles and underneath them are all those graves from hundreds of years ago. As a little girl I thought it was scary and I walked on this floor as quietly as possible to not disturb anyone down there. Nowadays I think it is a nice reminder of the way in which people used to pay a last honor to a deceased by burying him or her in the house of gad. However, I have always wondered if only people who were important or wealthy were buried here or if the local former also got a place here. Perhaps a good question for you to ask when you visit the Big church of Edam.
There is, of course much to see and discover in this large hall church. If you get a guided tour from one of the people who volunteers in the church, you will learn all the ins and outs about the history of this church, but you can also learn a lot if you go on a discovery tour yourself.
After the fire in 1602, 32 stained glass windows from the period 1602-1627 were donated to the church by the main Dutch cities and by wealthy guilds from Edam itself. These glasses are made in the Renaissance style and are really beautiful to look at. Once again it is amazing to think that these glasses were made by artisans at that time and that in 2021, they still adorn the church so beautifully.
The main organ was made by Barent Smit from Hoorn in 1663 and it is still intact. The barrel vault was made of wood to keep the weight of the church to a minimum. This was always made of stone, but in many Dutch churches this was made with wood. Also, a fun fact is that the murals of the ten Commandments that can now be seen in the church were discovered in the 20th century under different layers of plaster. What cannot be discovered when a wall is stripped of the ravages of time. Home marks can still be seen on the gravestones. These home marks were intended for people who could not read. In that way they could see who was buried there.
Also, very nice to look at is the choir screen with its beautiful carvings and the 17th century copper work throughout the church. The extension on the south side is also called the Librije. Originally this was the sacristy with a very large library on the first floor. Later this became the Latin school. The exterior façade of this extension is rich in details. Therefore, make a round around the church to view it.
I could talk for hours about my experiences with the Big church in Edam and why this church really should be on your list to visit during a day or holiday in Edam, but you must discover this for yourself when you are there.