The Royal Palace is one of three palaces in the Netherlands which are at the disposal of the monarch by Act of Parliament. The palace was built as the Town Hall of the City of Amsterdam and was opened as such on 29 July 1655 by Cornelis de Graeff, the political and social leader of Amsterdam. It is now called as the royal palace and used by the monarch for entertaining and official functions during state visits and other official receptions, such as New Year receptions. The award ceremonies of the Erasmus Prize, of the Silver Carnation, of the Royal Awards for Painting, and of the Prince Claus Award are also held in the palace.
The palace was built by Jacob van Campen, who took control of the construction project in 1648. It was built on 13,659 wooden piles and cost 8.5 million gulden. A yellowish sandstone from Bentheim in Germany was used for the entire building. The stone has darkened considerably in the course of time. Marble was the chosen material for the interior.
Jacob van Campen was inspired by Roman administrative palaces. He drew inspiration from the public buildings of Rome. He wanted to build a new capitol for the Amsterdam burgomasters who thought of themselves as the consuls of the new Rome of the North. The technical implementation was looked after by the town construction master Daniël Stalpaert. The sculptures were executed by Artus Quellijn.
On the marble floor of the central hall there are two maps of the world with a celestial hemisphere. The Western and Eastern hemispheres are shown on the maps. The hemispheres detail the area of Amsterdam's colonial influence. The terrestrial hemispheres were made in the mid-18th century. They replaced an earlier pair made in the late 1650s. The originals showed the regions explored by the Dutch East India Company's ships in the first half of the 17th century. This feature may have been inspired by the map of the Roman Empire that had been engraved on marble and placed in the Porticus Vipsania, a public building in ancient Rome.
On top of the palace is a large domed cupola, topped by a weather vane in the form of a cog ship. This ship is a symbol of Amsterdam. Just underneath the dome there are a few windows. From here one could see the ships arrive and leave the harbour.
Paintings inside include works by Govert Flinck (who died before finishing a cycle of twelve huge canvases), Jacob Jordaens, Jan Lievens and Ferdinand Bol. Rembrandt's largest work, The Conspiracy of Claudius Civilis was commissioned for the building, but after hanging for some months was returned to him; the remaining fragment is now in Stockholm.
In its time the building was one of many candidates for the title of the Eighth Wonder of the World. Also, for a long time it was the largest administrative building in Europe.References:
The Church of Our Lady before Týn is a dominant feature of the Old Town of Prague and has been the main church of this part of the city since the 14th century. The church's towers are 80 m high and topped by four small spires.
In the 11th century, this area was occupied by a Romanesque church, which was built there for foreign merchants coming to the nearby Týn Courtyard. Later it was replaced by an early Gothic Church of Our Lady before Týn in 1256. Construction of the present church began in the 14th century in the late Gothic style under the influence of Matthias of Arras and later Peter Parler. By the beginning of the 15th century, construction was almost complete; only the towers, the gable and roof were missing. The church was controlled by Hussites for two centuries, including John of Rokycan, future archbishop of Prague, who became the church's vicar in 1427. The roof was completed in the 1450s, while the gable and northern tower were completed shortly thereafter during the reign of George of Poděbrady (1453–1471). His sculpture was placed on the gable, below a huge golden chalice, the symbol of the Hussites. The southern tower was not completed until 1511, under architect Matěj Rejsek.
After the lost Battle of White Mountain (1620) began the era of harsh recatholicisation (part of the Counter-Reformation). Consequently, the sculptures of 'heretic king' George of Poděbrady and the chalice were removed in 1626 and replaced by a sculpture of the Virgin Mary, with a giant halo made from by melting down the chalice. In 1679 the church was struck by lightning, and the subsequent fire heavily damaged the old vault, which was later replaced by a lower baroque vault.
Renovation works carried out in 1876–1895 were later reversed during extensive exterior renovation works in the years 1973–1995. Interior renovation is still in progress.
The northern portal is a wonderful example of Gothic sculpture from the Parler workshop, with a relief depicting the Crucifixion. The main entrance is located on the church's western face, through a narrow passage between the houses in front of the church.
The early baroque altarpiece has paintings by Karel Škréta from around 1649. The oldest pipe organ in Prague stands inside this church. The organ was built in 1673 by Heinrich Mundt and is one of the most representative 17th-century organs in Europe.