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Cathedral of St Bavo in Haarlem

St Bavo in Haarlem

The Cathedral of St Bavo is situated on the Grote Markt in the middle of Haarlem. This 14th-century church is a landmark. It looks like several huge buildings formed into one. It has beautiful windows some of which are modern from 2008. Its interesting history has brought in plenty of tourists to Haarlem.


The church was first constructed by Catholics in 1245. In 1559, the building went through a renovation to make it bigger than its original size until it was consecrated as a cathedral. But, this took place during the Reformation and the Protestants confiscated St Bavo church just nineteen years later.

The Cathedral of St Bavo, which serves as the primary cathedral for Haarlem’s Roman Catholic Diocese, has dominated the skyline of the city for centuries. It was constructed by the Catholics from 1895 to 1930 as a replacement to the waterstaatskerk in St Joseph. Within the cathedral, the sacristy has been transformed into a small museum that has historical artefacts from the Catholic past of Haarlem.

What to Expect


Interesting Structures- The cathedral was constructed mainly in bricks. Its main entrance side seems rather ordinary. However, visitors who will walk around the perimeter will discover extraordinary gargoyles and towers.

These structures lead up to the green dome that the two main towers flanked. Visitors will be impressed with the cathedral both during the day and night when big spotlights are trained on building with the illuminated dome shining in the sky.

Architecture- On the cathedral’s interior, visitors will be amazed with its 33-meter-high roof built with bricks. A big part of the Gothic decoration was destructed during the 1566 Iconoclasm but later replaced with baroque and renaissance art.

Many wealthy bishops and citizens made their contribution to the art collection by giving well-decorated tombs and donations. Its architectural elements include clerestory windows, clustered pillars, decorative capitals, mouldings and vaulted ceilings.

Muller organ- This is the church’s main highlight which nearly takes all the spaces in the eastern wall. The height of the organ is almost 30 meters and it dates from 1738.

Musical Tradition- St. Bavo boasts of an excellent musical tradition. It has in place a Cathedral choir. Choir members tour overseas on a regular basis and sing on many Catholic feast days. Their accompaniment is a cathedral pipe organ. Free organ recitals are provided during the summer season.

Antique Collection- The cathedral’s Treasury keeps a great collection of antique religious items including clothing, altar books and chalices. Additionally, the Saint Bavo Cathedral is home to some special art works that include small figures which accentuate the experience of viewers. The chapel also boasts of the polyptych which is built with a special glass cage.

How to Get There

From Haarlem Centraal, the main train station, tourists can walk ten to fifteen minutes to the Grote Markt. Once tourists are in this area, everything they want to see including the St Bavo Cathedral is within a short stroll. Frequent trains from Amsterdam reach Haarlem around fifteen minutes.

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