Amsterdam's Westerkerk

We're very excited to have our Ceremony in the Westerkerk. This beautiful church is right in the heart of the city behind the Royal Palace and Dam Square. A number of you have already asked whether the Westerkerk Ceremony is a marriage service. In fact it's a Wedding Blessing as, in common with many European countries, a Minister is unable to conduct a legal marriage in the Netherlands. All couples gay or straight get married in the Town or City Hall and then many follow with the kind of service we are having in the Westerkerk. It's always been our ambition to have a Marriage Blessing here because of the Westerkerk's historic and contemporary significance.

Officially opened on Whit Sunday 1631, it's one of the oldest churches especially built for Protestant services, and the largest church of its type in the Netherlands. The tower, which occupies a unique place in the affections of the people of Amsterdam, bears the symbol of the imperial crown of Maximilian of Austria, and remains an important symbol of the city.

The world-famous 17th century painter Rembrandt van Rijn, the the greatest Dutch painter of the Golden Age, is buried in the Westerkerk. His most inventive and most stunning work is The Night Watch painted in 1642. It depicts a group of city guardsmen awaiting the command to fall in line. A life-size bronze version of the work consisting of all 22 figures is currently on show in the Rembrandtplein as part of this year's celebrations of Rembrandt's 400th anniversary.

The royalwatchers amongst you will of course recall that in 1966 Queen Beatrix and Prince Claus were married in the church. We regret that they won't be attending on the 8th owing to a prior engagement.

Anne Frank Diary

Born on June 12, 1929, Anne Frank was a German-Jewish teenager who was forced to go into hiding during the Holocaust. She and her family, along with four others, spent 25 months during World War II in an annex of rooms above her fatherís office just next to the Westerkerk. The Frank family had originally fled to Amsterdam from Germany in 1933 and Anne lived in an apartment in the next street from ours until they went into hiding. Her diary, saved during the war by one of the familyís helpers was first published in 1947. Today, her diary has been translated into 67 languages and is one of the most widely read books in the world. It was the ringing of the clock on the tower of the Westerkerk that was her greatest beacon of hope during WWII.

The Homomonument

Unveiled in Amsterdam on September 5, 1987, the Homomonument is the world's foremost public memorial to lesbians and gay men who've been harassed, imprisoned, or executed before, during and since World War II. Designed by Karin Daan, the monument consists of three triangles of pinkish granite that together compose one giant triangle. In the picture above you see the first triangle close to a canal. This triangle points to the National War Memorial on the Dam in the centre of Amsterdam. The three triangles are linked by a stripe of pink bricks that are connected across a road and into the Westerkerk's backyard.

An important aspect of the monument was that it should address both men and women. It was also not meant to be a traditional monument tucked away in some dark corner, but a living monument in the centre of the city. It was also not intended to be a monument only to those who suffered under the Nazi regime. Oppression of homosexuality existed long before the Nazis and continues up to the present day. Therefore the Homomonument has three dimensions: a warning from the past, a recognition and confrontation with the present, and an inspiration for the future.