Built during the Golden Age of the 17th century, Amsterdam’s Canal Ring, known locally as the Grachtengordel, is comprised of a network of intersecting waterways. These were developed through the drainage and reclamation of land for new development. Yet what was initially a practical feature, allowing the city to grow beyond its fortified boundaries, subsequently evolved into the area’s characteristic gabled canal-side estates and spectacular monuments thanks to financial enrichment from the booming maritime trade. The most famous trademarks of this new canal belt became the concentric loop of the Prinsengracht, Keizersgracht, Herengracht and Singel canals.
Since 1999, the city’s distinctive canal landscape has officially been protected, and in 2010 the Amsterdam Canal Ring was added to UNESCO’s World Heritage List. In 2013, the Canal Ring also celebrated its 400th birthday.
Amsterdam’s maritime success in the Golden Age not only led to urban expansion, but a boom in trade and architectural development. This was marked by the building of the city’s remarkable canal-side estates in the 17th and 18th centuries – most of which are still standing today. Even if you aren’t lucky enough to call one of these monuments your home, there are plenty of ways to experience life by the water in both museumsand special events in and around the canals.
Located inside an actual canal house, Het Grachtenhuis (Museum of the Canals) is a great way to learn more about the Canal Ring and its development over the centuries, with its multimedia exhibits bringing history to life. And for those looking to experience the present as well as learn about the past, events such as Open Garden Days and Amsterdam Heritage Days allow canal houses and city centre monuments to open their doors to the public.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.