- Type: Landmarks
NileGuide Expert tip:
After years of being closed for renovations, the Palace has finally re-opened to visitors. Ironically, now that the building is open to the public, it is completely covered in scaffolding.
One of the Dam's heavier features is the solid, neoclassical facade of the Royal Palace (1648-55), also known as the Paleis op de Dam (Palace on the Dam). Jacob van Campen -- the Thomas Jefferson of the Dutch Republic -- designed it as a stadhuis (town hall) to replace the decayed old Gothic one that in 1652 did everyone a favor by burning down. Van Campen intended to showcase the city's burgeoning prosperity; so its interior is replete with white Italian marble, sculptures, and painted ceilings. Poet Constantijn Huygens called it the eighth world wonder, and indeed it was among Europe's largest secular buildings at the time. It was built on a precisely tabulated foundation of 13,659 timber pilings -- a figure taught to all Dutch schoolchildren.
Not until 1808, when Napoleon Bonaparte's younger brother Louis reigned as king of the Netherlands, did it become a palace, filled with imperial furniture courtesy of the French ruler. Since the Dutch House of Orange's return to the throne in 1813, this has been the official palace of the reigning king or queen of the Netherlands. Few of them, however, have used it for more than their pied-à-terre in the capital or an occasional state celebration, such as Queen Beatrix's inauguration reception -- she prefers living at Huis ten Bosch in The Hague, but can on occasion be seen waving from the balcony here to crowds of onlookers below on the Dam.
In the Vierschaar (Court of Justice), until the 18th century, magistrates pronounced death sentences under images of Justice, Wisdom, and Mercy. Atlas holds up the globe in the high-ceilinged Burgerzaal (Citizens Chamber) and maps inlaid on the marble floor show Amsterdam as the center of the world. Ferdinand Bol's painting Moses the Lawgiver hangs in the Schepenzaal (Council Chamber), where aldermen met. On the pediment overlooking the Dam, Flemish sculptor Artus Quellin carved a stone tribute to Amsterdam's maritime preeminence; it depicts the Maid of Amsterdam and figures symbolizing the oceans paying the city homage. The weathervane on the cupola is shaped like a Dutch sailing ship. Every now and then, the 17th-century Hemony carillon tinkles out a melody.
- © Frommer's 2013
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