A unique opportunity to climb the medieval tower


The sign said :" climbing the tower is at your own risk". I soon found out why. These towers are clearly not meant for wandering visitors !
Narrow spiral staircase first, and then long steep wobbling ladders. Crawling through hatches, dust and bird droppings.
But it certainly was worth it !
The body of this church is gothic, mid 15th century. But the tower is older. The first three levels date before 1200, came with an earlier smaller church.
The tower was originally flat topped, no spire. Built like a fortress, a lookout and a place of refuge for the citizens.

Every year in September, there's Monument Day. When all across the Netherlands thousands of places normally closed to the public can be visited. A unique opportunity to climb the two church towers in the centre of Weesp
The old medieval one first, and later the 19th century catholic church.
From up there in the old church, a nice view over the centre. Could see my own house as well. And the wide open green polders around.
Green for now, because the green pastures you see on the picture below are destined to be swallowed by urban development in a few years ...

panorama of the old centre, with left the 19th century catholic church

Up in the tower is the carillon. An ancient musical instrument popular all over Holland, Belgium and the north of France, these parts of Europe forming in fact the late medieval Netherlands.
The bells of the carillon mark the time. They play a different tune for each quarter of an hour. So, for example, 3:15 is indicated by the 15 past melody, followed by 3 big bell strokes. These tunes are played mechanically, and changed with the seasons.

music drum - carillon

For concerts, there's the keyboard. Played on special occasions, and every Tuesday, market day, a carillon concert of an hour.
If you want to know what it looks and sounds like, watch this video clip.
In that video, you'll notice that with the interior shots, you hardly hear the bells at all. That is absolutely real. When you're inside the tower and the 15 minutes tunes are automatically played, the rattling and squeaking of the antique machinery overrules everything else.


The big bells gave warning for fires, storms or enemy attacks. They still sound for service, wedding and funeral.
From inside the tower you can have a peek into the long tunnel-like space between the ceiling of the church and the roof. Impressive timber construction.

interior church and roof

For great detailed drawings of the tower, see this website :
On that drawing you'll notice that the big bells are hanging freely in a separate heavy timber construction within the tower, in a bell cage. Otherwise the vibrations of the heavy bells would damage, or even destroy the tower. Especially in this muddy country with it's flabby subsoil.

old centre seen from catholic church

Photo above : the centre of Weesp, with the old church, on this lovely day in September 2011.

I'm compelled to add a rather sad ending to this page.
In 2013, the city council realized that they were responsible if something happened to people visiting the church tower. So they decided on forbidding it fully.
Like everywhere in the Netherlands, this church tower belongs to the municipality. Towers with their bells, carillon, and the clock, had an important public function. And it was a logical look-out. Not only for the military, also for the fire guard.

Return to the history overview on this website.

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