The Grote of Sint-Jacobskerk is a former Protestant church and one of the oldest buildings in The Hague. Located near the city’s town hall, its name means Great or St. James Church in English. The church was the site of many famous baptisms, including members of the House of Orange.
A Little History
St. James Church was built during the 14th century. The original structure was built out of wood and named St. Jacob Church. By the mid-15th century, the church was rebuilt using brick and its height was extended. Its hexagonal tower dominates the city center and lends to the street name Torenstraat (Tower Street) where the structure stands. Neither the architect nor the builder of the church are known.
In 1456, the Knights of the Golden Fleece met in the Great Church, and their crest still hangs on the wall today.
The Great Church that you see today is not the original structure that was built during the 15th century. In 1539, lightning struck the tower during a violent storm. Most of the church went up in flames and the fire quickly spread to other nearby homes. Needless to say, the tower was all but destroyed. However, it was rebuilt in 1542. While the look of the tower was similar, the new construction was designed in the Renaissance style rather than the original Gothic style.
In 1702, the church tower was once again struck by lightning, but the flames were extinguished by a brave young Hague citizen. In 1999, the church’s most recent renovations were completed.
Bells and Tombs
The church’s four largest bells are housed in the tower’s attic: Jacob, Jhezus, Salvator and Wege Waert. There was a fifth bell, named Maria, which was melted into a cannon in 1575.
Aside from the church’s beautiful interior, there are also quite a few notable tombs onsite. One of the most famous and striking is the tomb of Admiral Jacob van Wassenaer Obdam, who was a commander during the second English war. The admiral’s body was lost at sea and never recovered.
Visiting the Grote of Sint-Jacobskerk
The church’s tower is closed to the public for health and safety reasons. Today, the structure serves as a venue for concerts and various cultural events.
During the summer months, the church is open to the public on certain days of the week. Before your visit to The Hague, be sure to inquire about whether or not the interior can be toured that day.