Monks on Blood Street

Whoever walks through Bloedstraat (Blood Street) will not easily believe that this somewhat sinister name is linked to a monastery that stood here before. Between 1464 and 1578 the Franciscan monastery determined the townscape of the red light district at Nieuwmarkt (New Market).

minderbroedersklooster-amsterdamThe friars were followers of St. Francis of Assisi. The name of these monks aka Minderbroeders showed their austere lifestyle. In the Franciscan order, charity and caring for the sick, poor and needy was central. In 1462 the friars founded a convent in Amsterdam. This was one of the last of a total of 21 monasteries that were founded in Amsterdam between 1393 and 1494. Most monasteries were located on Oudezijde (Old Side) in the eastern part of the city. In 1464 the construction of the complex was started, which extended from the current alleys Barndesteeg to Molensteeg between Oudezijds Achterburgwal and Kloveniersburgwal / Nieuwmarkt. The core consisted of a square complex of buildings around a courtyard surrounded by a chapel, cemetery, gardens and various smaller buildings.

In 1566 the Iconoclasm raged through the northern Netherlands, where Catholic churches and monasteries were destroyed and looted. Also the Franciscan monastery fell prey. The Spanish King Philip II, the then ruler, sent in 1567 the Duke of Alva to restore order with an iron fist. Alva took in Amsterdam moved into the Franciscan monastery and established his Council of Troubles. This court was soon known as the Blood Council. The final end of the monastery came in 1578 with the Alteration, where the Catholic city government was deposed and monasteries and churches got new destinations. The friars were expelled from the city and after a sacking their monastery was closed and followed a series of renovations.

opgraving-bloedstraatIn 2001, during excavations at Bloedstraat several traces of the history of the monastery was recovered in the soil. This was originally a marshy alder forest area, which was raised at the end of the fourteenth century with peat turf to make it ready for construction. The archaeologists found remains of a wall of the refectory, the dining room of 6.5 x 14 m, and the wine cellar. As usual with great buildings from that period, as St. Anthonispoort (St Anthony Gate), currently known as Waag on Nieuwmarkt , which is from 1488, the walls were cemented by a heavy oak frame with poles inside. The wood of this foundation grid was cut down in 1462. Also remnants of the two cemeteries of the monastery were found, one in the cloister next to the refectory and one along the Oudezijds Achterburgwal, which was excavated in part in 2008. Here they found eight graves that consisted of wooden coffins with the remains of four men and four women aged 20 to 67 years. From this we can conclude that not only monks were buried in this part of the monastery.

St Anthony Gate aka Waag

During the renovation of the monastery at the end of the sixteenth century, the grounds were landscaped with new streets and alleys like Bloedstraat, Monnikenstraat, Gordijnensteeg and Monnikendwarsstraat with houses along it. Despite these alterations, the structure of the Franciscan monastery is still recognizable on the map. The streets form a square around the central cloister. About the origin of the name Bloedstraat there are many different ideas, ranging from the infamous Blood Council of Alva to the blood chamber, the operating room of the monastery.