From Academic Kids

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The Grote Markt in 1696, painting by Gerrit Adriaensz. Berckheyde
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The Grote Markt in Haarlem with the Sint-Bavokerk. On the left the statue of Laurens Janszoon Coster can be seen, on the right is the Vleeshal.
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Interior of St Bavo. Haarlem, by Jan Adriaensz. Berckheyde, 1673 (National Gallery, London)

The Grote Kerk or St.-Bavokerk is the largest church in the Dutch city of Haarlem. It is dedicated to Saint Bavo.

It started its life as a Catholic church and became a cathedral in 1559, but was confiscated in 1578 and converted to Protestantism. It was built in the Gothic style of architecture.

Until 1831 graves were made in the church. A local story is that there is a grave of a child that used to hit his mother. After a while his hand started to grow above his grave, and a copper plate had to be installed on the grave to stop the hand from growing.


The legend is that the two upper bells in the tower are taken from Damiette (Damiate in Dutch) during the 5th crusade by Haarlem knights and that since 1561 the two bells are rang every evening between 21:00 and 21:30 o'clock, to commemorate the conquest of Damiette on August 25th 1219. However, they were a gift by Johannes Dircks, a bell-maker from Aalst to Nicolaas van Nieuwland, the bishop of Haarlem.

In any case, the ringing of the bells indicated the closing of the city gates. Two new upper bells were placed in 1732, created by Jan Albert de Grave.

In 1932 the clock on the tower was upgraded with electrical lights.


On May 22nd 1801 there was a fire caused by a thunderstrike in the tower. A disaster was prevented by Martijn Hendrik Kretschman, the guard of the tower, a three other man. In 1839 one of those men, Jan Drost, committed suicide in the tower after he was fired (he worked for the church). He had tried to put fire in the organ by throwing hot coals on top of the organ, but he missed and another disaster was prevent.

In the renovation of the 1930s an automatic sprinkler system was installed in the tower, that could put a fire out until 70 meters high in the tower.


The organ of the Sint-Bavo church (the Christiaan Muller organ) is very famous. It was built by Christian Müller and Jan van Logteren, from Amsterdam. They built it between 1735 - 1738, and when it was ready it was the largest organ in the world with 60 voices and 32-feet pedaaltorens .

Many famous people used the organ, including Mendelssohn, Händel and the 10-year old Mozart who played it in 1766.

The organ was changed a number of times in the 19th and 20th century. These changes were turned back in the renovation between 1959 and 1961. Between 1987 and 2000 there has been worked on the voicing of the organ.


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