Monday, August 14, 2006
I knew I recognized these pictures. Taxipage is a collection of pictures taken by some random cabbie in Leiden, The Netherlands.

I lived in this town for a year (plus a few weeks the two prior summers, as well) doing research for my Ph.D. So I just had to make note of it. Perhaps if he ever gets to Hooglandse Kerkgracht, he'll take a picture of the Lutheran Church in Leiden.

Actually, I preferred the Lutheran Church in Utrecht, because it was a Geheimekapel: a hidden chapel. In the Golden Age of the Dutch Republic, Catholics, Jews and (yes!) Lutherans were "tolerated" by the Hervormede Kerk (Reformed) as long as the church buildings (or synagogues) were discreet (i.e., nobody knew what they were). The Lutheran Church in Utrecht (on Hambugerstraat) retains this today. From the outside, it looks like three separate houses; but on the inside is a beautiful sanctuary, complete with pipe organ and (miniature) transcept. You can see it here. Unfortunately, this site does not show the outside; but it just looks like three typical Dutch row-houses. The main screen will show a slide show, but if you click on either klein or groot (small or large) panorama, you can get one of those "virtual tour" kind of shots that you can direct any where you want. The pipe organ is to the left of the altar (from the congregation's perspective) up high. Look closely underneath the cenral rank of pipes. What do you see?

If you read German, you can probably figure out that the Church was once a Cloister, but was taken over by the town in 1580. The properrty was passed around a bit, but came into Lutheran hands in 1743, after the restrictions on non-Reformed services eased up.

Anyway, enjoy the pictures of Leiden. After my dissertation is done, I'm toying around with the idea of writing a brief beginners history of Leiden, along the lines of Thomas Cahill's How the Irish Saved Civilization. My working title is The Town that Made America. The connections between Leiden and various topics of American history are pretty numerous, but most Americans have no idea that a town called Leiden even exists. Most of us remember from our elementary school education that before the Pilgrims came to the New World, they went to Holland for eleven years. They lived in Leiden. Our Thanksgiving Day feast actually has its roots in a similar feast that takes place a few weeks earlier (October 3) in Leiden. John Locke lived in Leiden for several years, and most of his major work was done there. Ben Franklin's ideas on electricity came form his reading of Dutch scientists who worked in Leiden (ever heard of a Leyden Jar?)