Dutch Donderdag – Hell’s Bells

I have a question. Are the Dutch tone deaf? Ok, this may seem like a rather rude question but having spent nearly a year living some 100m away from Amsterdam’s Zuiderkerk (South Church) I would have to answer this question with an emphatic YES!

Pretty church… shame about the noise


Every Thursday at midday, come hell or high water, an organist (or perhaps, more likely, an epileptic spider on speed) begins randomly hammering at keys. The tuneless metallic cacophony that blasts from the tower lasts from 45 minutes to an hour and is enough to drive a sane person psychotic. There is no identifiable tune that comes out of the bells just a random series of discord notes… although one day during the summer I swear I heard brief excerpts of “home, home on the range” & “merry Christmas” between bouts of noise.

Now imagine that going for an hour non-stop (& it really does sound that tinny)

At first I thought maybe it was just that the Zuiderkerk was in need of some SERIOUS tuning but one day whilst stood in Dam Square the bell above the royal palace rang… turns out it wasn’t just the Zuiderkerk that produced tuneless noise. If the royal palace can’t hold a tune what hope is there for the rest of the bells in this fair city?

On top of the general noise is the effect this ear-sore has on the stress levels of the people around the church… I’m sure it’s not just us it effects. During hot summer months I have to close all the windows in a bid to stifle the noise. Instead I just end up sitting in stifling heat unable to concentrate on anything as the sound reverberates around the flat. Then there’s my poor boyfriend who quite often works at night & who, not only loses an hour’s worth of sleep thanks to the ringing, but further subsequent hours because he’s been woken up & is stressed out about losing precious sleep before work.

Apparently we are not the fist to loath the church. Several years ago a petition was collected to silence the bells once & for all. It worked… until a new mayor came into office. A couple of old ladies wined that they missed the bells (I can only presume that they were deaf) & the bells were started up once more. So, thanks to a couple of old biddies (who are most likely dead by now) the rest of us in the area have to suffer the weekly noise from hell.

It kinda makes me miss the glorious deep-throated church bells of ol’ Blighty… at least we know how to bang out a good tune &, more importantly, know when to stop.


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