The Hague’s present redbrick Gothic-style Great Church (Sint-Jacobskerk) replaced a 13th-century wooden church that was destroyed by fire in 1539. Located on Torenstraat, which is named after the church’s six-sided bell tower, it is one of the oldest buildings in Den Haag and had become increasingly run down before extensive renovation work in the 1980s restored it to its former magnificence. It was in this church that many Dutch Royal baptisms took place; King Willem-Alexander was christened here, as was his daughter Catharina-Amalia.
The ornate bell tower is one of the tallest in Holland at 330 feet (100 m), and although it had a famous peal of bells that rang out across Den Haag from 1686 onwards, they disappeared during WWII and were replaced by a new carillon of 51 bells in 1951. The Grote Kerk has an airy vaulted interior, several important memorials and tombs, a decorative carved wooden pulpit and a massive organ dating from 1881. However its finest feature is the glittering stained-glass window sponsored by the Holy Roman Emperor Charles V, who visited Den Haag after the original church burned down in 1539. He is depicted kneeling in prayer before the Virgin Mary.
The Grote Kerk is now deconsecrated and is used for a year-round succession of rock, pop, choral and classical concerts, trade fairs and exhibitions.
The Grote Kerk is open July and August Mon-Sat 12pm-4pm and during the public events that take place here throughout the year. There is plenty of public parking within walking distance of Torenstraat.