The Miracle of Amsterdam, Begijnhof and Chapel (Amsterdam, The Netherlands)

Begijnhof and Chapel
*Zandvoorterweg 78 * 2111 GZ Aerdenhout * Tel. 023-5246229 * Fax. 023-5440081 * info: * website:

Amsterdam, Holland
It was here, at the Begijnhof that a few days before Palm Sunday on March 15, 1345 a sick man in the Kalverstraat took the Sacrament of the sick from the local priest. The man vomited up the host, which was caught in a basin and thrown on the fire where it “appeared” to “float above the flames”. It was an amazing miracle. A woman then stretched out her hand into the flames to seize the host from the fire and put it in a case. She remained unburnt and unharmed from putting her hand in the fire when touching the host. The priest, who was from the Oude Kerkwas sent for and took the host back to the “Old Church”. The next day a woman in the house in the Kalverstraat opened the case and saw that the host had magically transported back. She sent for the priest again, and again he took the magic host back to the Old Church. The next day for a third time, the host transported back to the case in the sick man’s room. The miracle of the bread that didn’t burn and wouldn’t leave the house became known widespread. Again, the priest took the host, but this time returning to the Old Church with a solemn procession. The next year the Bishop Jan van Arkel declared this host to be a genuine miracle. Two years later, a church was built on the very spot where the miracle took place. As people joined a procession to take the holy sacrement through the streets of Amsterdam in mid-march to celebrate the Miracle. The Holy Stead Chapel (The Ter Heylighen Stede) was consecrated by the vicar-general of Bishop Jan van Arkel, the Bishop of Utrecht in 1347.

A Heiligeweg (Holy Way) was created to help the pilgrims who come to the chapel. the “holy corner” where the miracle took place is preserved in the chapel. The procession ended in 1578 since the town passed to the reformed faith and Catholics were no longer permitted to profess their faith openly. The chapel was then used as a storehouse falling into disrepair. The Prince of Orange visited the chapel in 1580 and was told about the miracle. The Prince had the church taken apart stone by stone. What was left in 1590 was used for worship by the Netherlands Reformed Church renaming it the Nieuwezijds Capel and demolished the fireplace in the “holy corner”. Through the 19th century the chapel decayed even further and by 1898 was no longer needed for worship. Eventually the Catholics wanted to buy it back and loudly protested when denied and it was demolished again in 1908 in spite of their wants. The Protestant church council considered the “Host” worship a “superstition” that had to be destroyed, and the only way to do that was to destroy the church. A few elements of the church has been preserved – the entrance gate, the turret, fragments of the chapel that were relocated, and were used in its reconstruction. By 1912 a small chapel was built and surrounded by shops. After 1974 Protestant worship evacuated the premises and it became a mosque. In 2001, at the initiative of the Company of the Silent Procession, a “GedachteNis” (memorial niche) was made by Hans ‘t Mannetje to re-open the holy corner to honor the tradition of celebrating this miracle. A series of 9 large paintings by Schenk were created to tell of the story and placed in the chapel of the Beguinage. Today the celebrations of the “Miracle of Amsterdam” again take place every year on the wednesday following March 12th. Catholic masses are held from wednesday through saturday in the chapel.

Around 1150 a group of women started a religious community in this area to look after the sick. It was this community that hosted the man who started the “Miracle of Amsterdam”. These were the first “Beguines”. They were not nuns, had no lifelong vows, nor did they live in the seclusion of a convent. They remained “unmarried” and held a vow of chastity and obedience to the parish priest which they could renounce at any time. This municipality had bound itself in perpetuity not to build houses in the large space which is called the “Het Spui”. Unfortunately during the great Amsterdam fires of 1421 and 1452 the larger part of the Beguinage and its chapel were destroyed. They rebuilt with brick. By 1397 they had a small chapel dedicated to the Blessed Virgin Mary. When each beguine died, they were buried in this church except for Mistress Cornelia Arents. During her life the church turned from a Catholic to a Protestant place of worship, so she therefore refused to be buried in it, asking to be placed in the wide church path near the gutter. Despite her wishes, in 1654, she was first buried in the church, and in 1655 reburied against the church wall as requested.

Because of the Protestants banning Catholic rights to profess their faith, protestant clergy denounced every house used for Popish idolatry to the authorities. The Beguines had to hand over their church in their courtyard to the authorties and was given to the English later being called the “English Church”. Catholics established churches in their houses so that they could nevertheless profess their faith – these were called “hidden churches’. Some of these were established in small houses in the yard and would rotate around.

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