© Halie Cousineau / Fodors Travel
With its elegant gray-and-white facade and spout gable, this appears to be just another lovely 17th-century canal house, and on the lower floors it is. But tucked away in the attic is a clandestine place of Catholic worship, a schuilkerk (hidden church), one of the very few to survive more or less in its original state. Catholic masses were officially forbidden from 1578, but the Protestant authorities in Amsterdam turned a blind eye provided the churches were not recognizable as such from the outside. The Oude Kerk was decatholicized and stripped of its patron, St. Nicholas, so this little church, consecrated in 1663, was dedicated to him until the St. Nicolaaskerk opened in 1887. The chapel itself is a triumph of Dutch classicist taste, with magnificent marble columns, gilded capitals, a colored-marble altar, and the Baptism of Christ in the Jordan (1716) painting by Jacob de Wit presiding over all.
The grandeur continues through the house, which was renovated by
merchant Jan Hartan between 1661 and 1663. Even the kitchen and chaplain bedroom remain furnished in the style of the age, and the drawing room, or sael, looks as if it were plucked from a Vermeer painting. With its gold chandelier and Solomonic columns, it's one of the most impressive 17th-century rooms left in Amsterdam. Besides boasting canvases by Thomas de Keyser, Jan Wynants, and Abraham de Vries, the house also displays impressive collections of church silver and sculptures. The new part of the museum, on the other side of the alley, hosts temporary exhibitions.