The Der Aa-Kerk with its characteristic yellow tower can be found in the centre of Groningen near the fish market and surrounding shops.
A little Romanesque cross church that was built in the 13th century was enlarged in the 15th century to a gothic cross-basilica. The organ it contains is of great international repute and dates back to the 17th century. For the first four centuries of its existence, the church was a Roman Catholic Church after which during the Reformation it passed into the hands of the Reformed community for the next four centuries. In the 1970’s the last of the three monumental churches in the centre of the city of Groningen (Der Aa-kerk, the Martinikerk and the Nieuwe Kerk) became too large for the Reformed community and after restoration the church became part of Stichting Der Aa-kerk (non-profit) in 1987. The church has now mainly a cultural function.
The name ‘A’ comes from the river Aa that used to have an important function for sailors and merchants in the western part of the city. The vault, which originally was not much bigger than a large village church, was dedicated to the holy Nicolaas (or Sinterklaas), who amongst others is the patron saint of sea merchants and traders.
In 1671 due to a lightening strike and ensuing fire the tower and clock had to be totally restored with further repairs in 1710. The new tower was finally completed in 1718, a design of the town construction master, Allert Meijer. Since then there has been a ‘tidy-up’, in 2006 of the church restoring it to its former glory.
Although the Aa-kerk hasn’t been used as a church during the last twenty years it is still in use for exhibitions, congresses, readings, theatre shows, and weddings. There are also educative programmes available for the first two years of primary school.
© Alison Day
First published in the Connections magazine #14 Winter 2006,
a publication of Connect International
My website: www.alisonday.nl
My webstore: Alison Day Designs