Oude Kerk – Amsterdam, Netherlands - Atlas Obscura

Oude Kerk

Amsterdam's oldest church, and the center of Dutch prostitution. 


Amsterdam is one of the oldest and most beautiful cities in Europe. It is also a self-proclaimed experiment in freedom, which has forced many of the city’s beautiful buildings and districts into close proximity with its sordid and renowned underbelly of drugs and prostitution.

Oude Kerk (Old Church) is the oldest church in Amsterdam and was constructed in 1306. Its towering arches and floor constructed of gravestones makes it a unique and sacred site in the city. But as is so common in Amsterdam, the profane has made its way to the church doors.

Situated on Old Church Square, the church now shares real estate with the a heavily trafficked zone of the Red Light District. Although some raised eyebrows at the collision of the two worlds, the city seems to have eventually embraced the strange dichotomy.

Proudly standing in front of the church doors, a bronze statue entitled “Belle” was erected in 2007 as a monument to the prostitutes of the world. Old Church Square also boasts a metal relief in the cobblestones of a hand caressing a woman’s breast, another reference to Amsterdam’s lively participation in the world’s oldest profession.