Holidaying in Amsterdam: Hofjes in Amsterdam
Hofjes are small courtyards with alms-houses around it. The Grachtengordel is one of the notable examples of a hofje and it can be visited on open days. These houses provided shelter for the elderly, most women, and were funded by private benefactors. They were kind of a social security for those who could not take care of themselves.
Inspired by begijnenhofjes, there exist more than forty hofjes in Amsterdam. They date back to the 1700s when the merchants in the city developed hospices for the old and ill people. Some of the most charming alms-houses of Amsterdam are concealed behind modest-looking gates. The hofjes are very serene and will truly give you peace, should you visit them. They are present in the neighbourhood of Jordan, and along the canals in the city centre.
These houses also sheltered religious women whose sole purpose in life was to worship their Lord. Their dedication and worship was meant to reward them with a house in heaven in the life hereafter. Those who love solitude will certainly want to visit these houses; however, prepare yourself for disappointment, you might not be allowed to go inside the hofje as its residents prefer to maintain their quiet and tranquillity.
On the one hand, there is the hustle and bustle of Amsterdam, and on the other there is the complete opposite – the peace and quiet of the Begijnhof. It is a courtyard filled with trees that religious and worshipping women resided in during the 12th century. They had dedicated their life to meditation and worship. 14th century old documents lay out some of the rules and regulations for gaining its membership. The rules were very straightforward: no men, no hens, and no dogs. Women could stay here for free; all they had to do was look after the sick and cater to the educational needs of the poor.
One of the two wooden houses in Amsterdam stands in the Begijnhof. Because of fires in the 1600s, about 75% of the city was consumed by flames. The English Reformed Church was the Begijnen’s place of worship and dates back to the 14th century. In 1898, Piet Mondriaan – who was a Dutch painter – designed its pulpit panels. The Pilgrim Father visited in 1607 and used the church after it was given up to the Protestants, following the Alteration of 1578.
Cornelia Arents was the senior Begijn who passed away in 1654. She said that she preferred to be buried in the Begijnhof’s gutter rather than in the Protestant Church. In 1657, her wish was granted. There is plaque and a granite slab on the wall connecting the church and the lawn; look there if you want to see where she was buried.
Philips Vingboons was the designer of the Begijnhofkapel, which was a replacement chapel. The city approved the design on the condition that it did not resemble a church from outside. Although it is the most popular and famous hofje, there are some other places as well which deserve to be explored. Entrance is on the north of Spui, and opposite Begijnensteeg on the GedempteBegijnensloot, Centrum, Amsterdam, 1012 RM. Visit between 1 pm-6.30 pm on Mondays, 9 am-6.30 pm on Tuesdays-Fridays, and 9 am-6 pm on weekends. You can also visit the website at www.begijnhofamsterdam.nl for more information.
Built in 1614, SintAndrieshofje is the oldest hofje in the city. Its Delfware entry makes it famous. Visit at Egelantiergracht 105-141, Jordaan, Amsterdam, 1015 RG.
This is an amalgamation of two hofjes: the hofje that was founded by ClaesClaeszAnslo, who was an Anabaptist draper, in 1616, and the Zwaardvegershofje, which is the sword maker’s hofje. The tenants that occupy the hofje currently consist of artists and students of music. Be sure to catch the Huis met de Schrijvende Hand, which translates as the House with the Writing Hand. Visit at junction of Egelantiersstraat 28-54, EersteEgelantiersdwarsstraat 1-5, and Tuinstraat 35-49, Jordaan, Amsterdam, 1015 NX.
Looking at the existing houses of the 18th century, one would not know that the Zevenkeurvorstenhofje was established around 1645. Visit at tuinstraat 197-223, Amsterdam, 1015 PD.
With a courtyard consisting of two pumps from the 17th century, this hofje was established in 1650. Visit at Karthuizersstraat 21-131, Jordaan, Amsterdam, 1015 LL.
The Van Brienenhofje and Zon’sHofje are located very close to one another. They are situated between the Brouwersgracht and the Prinsenstraat on Prinsengracht. The former is not open to the public and the latter is open from 10 am-5 pm on weekdays.
With a lush green courtyard, the Suykerhoff-hofje will give you true peace. These houses were opened in 1670. They welcomed Protestant widows and daughters, so long as they fulfilled certain conditions. They were all given twenty tons of turf, ten pounds of rice, butter, and pocket money yearly for their personal expenses. They were not required to pay rent. If only such provisions existed for women today as well. Visit at Lindengracht 149-163, Centrum, Amsterdam, 1015 KE.