Niche from Holy Heart Chapel

Left of the museum entrance is a sandstone niche with an inscription from 1908 dedicated to the memory of Bernardus de Bont, a governor Stichting Amstelkring and curator of the museum. The foundation was founded in the nineteenth century by a group of Catholics intent on maintaining the building which had meant so much to Amsterdam’s parishioners for centuries. In 1888, it opened to the public as Museum Amstelkring.

This small, modest niche, originally a recess for a statue, embodies the history of the Catholic faith in Amsterdam from the Middle Ages, through the years of suppression to the revival of the Catholic Church in the late nineteenth century. The architectural ornament originally came from Holy Hearth chapel which was built on Kalverstraat in 1346. An event had taken place there which soon became known as the Miracle of Amsterdam. What happened was this: on 15 March in 1345 a man lay dying. So a priest was called to administer the last rites. But the man vomited, and the sacred wafer was thrown away into the fire. Astonishingly, the wafer appeared to remain untouched by the flames. And even more amazing: when a priest brought the wafer to St Nicholas’s church (today this church is called Oude Kerk) it returned inexplicably to the house on Kalverstraat. A double miracle. The house was converted into a chapel dedicated to the miracle and began to attract pilgrims. After the Catholic clerics and burgomasters of Amsterdam were expelled in a Protestant coup known as the Alteration in 1578, the chapel was deliberately desecrated: first it was used as a stable, later it became a Protestant place of worship. Despite vociferous opposition, the historic chapel was eventually demolished in 1908. Various items nevertheless remained and were preserved, including this sandstone niche, which found a new home at Our Lord in the Attic.

The centuries-old Miracle procession that the Protestant burgomasters had forbidden was revived in 1881 as a Silent Procession; in fact the prohibition of the annual procession was not officially lifted until in 1984. The Silent Procession continues to be held each March and leads through Warmoesstraat, behind the museum, via Oude Kerk to the site of the miracle on Kalverstraat. A new plaque was placed there, opposite the entrance to Amsterdam Museum in 2011, interestingly... also in the form of a niche.