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Word of the day: kerk (church)

Did you know that many Dutch words starting with a ‘k’ have ‘ch’ in English and vice versa: cheese – kaas; choice – keus; chance – kans, etc.? 


You probably recognized the old church in the picture. It is the Oude Kerk in Delft. It leans over almost as much as the Tower of Pisa, but not as much as my picture suggests.

The word KERK is a very old Dutch word. Most Dutch people pronounce it is as /kerruk/. It was first written down in the year 777 CE according to Nicoline van der Sijs and her wonderful chronological dictionary. The word KERK sounds Germanic but appearances are deceptive as the Dutch saying goes: ‘schijn bedriegt’. KERK was derived from the Greek word ‘kūrikón’ which means ‘House of the Lord’.

De Oude Kerk in Delft is not the church in which the Oranje family rests. That is the Nieuwe Kerk, which is not far from there. ‘Nieuw’ (new) suggests that it is modern but the Nieuwe Kerk dates back to the 14th century.

The website mentions a fascinating legend from 1351:

‘The eccentric beggar Symon was sitting in his usual spot on the Markt, and was given something to eat by a Jan Col. Nobody could have predicted what would happen next…

A bright light suddenly shone right onto Symon’s face. The beggar said to his fellow townsman: Oh, my dear chosen friend, do you see the Heavens opening?” They both looked up, facing towards what was then the gallows field… And there, in a vision, they saw a golden church, dedicated to Mary.

Symon the beggar died soon afterwards, and left Jan Col to badger the city council to build a church at that spot on the Markt. He saw the same vision every year for thirty years, until the council finally gave in and agreed to his request. The ‘New Church’ became Delft’s second parish church. Later, it would emerge that the ‘visions’ were merely will o’ the wisps…’

Wonderful story. In the Nieuwe Kerk there is an interesting exhibition about the weird history of the Oranje family. The first Oranje who was laid to rest in the crypt was William the Silent, of Orange, the father of the fatherland, who was murdered in 1584. I read there that it was his wish to be buried in Breda where he was educated. At the time this was impossible because Breda was occupied by the Spanish with whom the Dutch were at war (1568-1648).

I still have not visited the interior of the Oude Kerk since I was young, but I intend to go one of these days and then I’ll report my findings.

By the way, it is a lovely cycle trip from The Hague to Delft along the Vliet. And if you feel like a cup of coffee and a pancake, appelgebak or a broodje, go to the wonderful Stads-Koffyhuis on the canal called de Oude Delft. This photo was taken from there.