Gothic clock on the ceiling of Sint Laurenskerk in Alkmaar

© RicardMN Photography

© RicardMN Photography

Gothic clock on the ceiling of Sint Laurenskerk (St. Lawrence church) in Alkmaar, Netherlands.

Alkmaar is a municipality and a city in the Netherlands, in the province of North Holland. Alkmaar is well known for its traditional cheese market.

Grote or Sint-Laurenskerk (English: Great, or St. Lawrence church) is a landmark Protestant church in Alkmaar, Netherlands. The building is located on the Koorstraat, named for its choir. The two organs are world-famous.

The Grote Kerk (1470-1498), dedicated to St Lawrence, is a handsome building and contains the tomb of Floris V, Count of Holland (d. 1296), a brass of 1546, and some paintings (1507). Anna Visscher is buried in this church. The church was built by Anthonius Keldermans (c. 1440-1512), from a church building family from Mechelen.

The earliest mention of the name Alkmaar is in a 10th-century document. As the village grew into a town, it was granted city rights in 1254. The oldest part of Alkmaar lies on an ancient sand bank that afforded some protection from inundation during medieval times. Even so, it is only a couple of metres above the surrounding region, which consists of some of the oldest polders in existence.

In 1573 the city underwent a siege by Spanish forces under the leadership of Don Fadrique, son of the Duke of Alva. The citizens sent urgent messages for help to the Prince of Orange; he responded by promising to open the floodgates of the dykes and flood the region if the need arose, which despite the protestations of the peasantry, fearful for their harvest, he proceeded to do. Some of his dispatches fell into the hands of Don Fadrique, and, with the waters beginning to rise, the Spaniards raised the siege and fled. It was a turning point in the Eighty Years War and gave rise to the expression Bij Alkmaar begint de victorie (“Victory begins at Alkmaar”). The event is still celebrated every year in Alkmaar on 8 October, the day the siege ended.

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