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Across the water is the former Roman Catholic hidden church which now houses a centre for chambre music.
A hidden church (or house church) is a religious building that is not easily recognizable as one. These churches were built at the time of the Dutch Republic (1588-1795) when Protestantism was the state religion and other denominations such as Roman Catholics, Old Catholics, Remonstrants, Lutherans and Mennonites had to hide from sight. Buildings like this one are to be found all over The Netherlands. In urban areas, they were often disguised as warehouses and in more rural surroundings they would take the form of barns, hence the word “barn churches”.
This barn church, dedicated to Saint Mary Magdalen, was built by Old Catholics in 1695 and the street it stands on was named after it: Papenpad (Papist Path). Only the arched windows reveal its religious connections.
In 2019 the church and its adjacent rectory were bought by the Stichting De Schuurkerk (Barn Church Foundation), which rent it out to musicians and musical ensembles. The small congregation had, for some time, been looking for a new owner that would respect the serenity of the building. Mathieu van Bellen and Maria Milstein, husband and wife and both accomplished violinists, proved to be the perfect match. Here, they made a long-time dream come true by providing a home for visiting musicians from all over the world, ‘where they can prepare for their concerts on the big stages around the Zaan area’. The church was renamed “Muziekhaven Zaandam” (Zaandam Music Haven) and now also hosts chambre music concerts.
Van Bellen says: ‘Making music to me is a religious experience. It takes the utmost dedication, serenity, respect and concentration. Honesty and integrity are paramount when playing to any audience.’