Monday, June 3, 2019

Amsterdam Journal: Mozes en Aaronkerk

watercolor by Hallie Cohen
Mozes en Aaronkerk is the name of a Roman Catholic Church in Amsterdam (in addition, there's a Mozes en Aaronstraat). It could also be the title of one of Rembrandt's biblical drawings. However ever since 1578 when the formerly Catholic Habsburg Netherlands followed William of Orange and rebelled against Phillip II of Spain, Amsterdam has been not only Protestant but religiously tolerant. Amsterdam is Reformation territory. Everything is clean, unembellished and unpardonable. Despite the ubiquitous sex shops the city is upright and profoundly moral in its sensibility. The morality just happens to be insistently liberal and mercantile. These are just a few of the contrarieties evinced in the permanent exhibition about the history of this ever-changing metropolis (whose name describes its inception—the damming of the Amstel River) at the Amsterdam Museum. After all despite their democratic attitudes at home, the Dutch were harsh colonizers.  The smell of pot is everywhere and may explain the crowds in the streets at night eating French fries and slices of New York style pizza at an establishment of the same name. Scoliotic 17th and 18th century townhouses line ancient canals and there’s a guttural sound to the language. The mixture is an unlikely but enduring recipe for beauty.

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