© Cor Snabel
Around the Nieuwe Kerk (New Church) the graveyard was separated in three parts. One of those parts was for the "miserables", those who died by the hand of the executioner, the suicides, non-baptized babies and heretics. The other two parts were for the poor. The highest attainable was to be buried inside the church, the floors of the Oude Kerk and the Nieuwe Kerk still have beautiful tombstones. The church authorities had a problem in those days, they had to perform divine services on a regular base, but also a growing number of rich families, who wanted their relative to be buried in the church. So they had to store the corpses till there was an opportunity for the funeral. If the city was struck by an epidemic, the problems were almost insuperable. During the divine services even perfume was not effective enough, so the situation was unbearable.
Authorities decided that the funereal would be performed in the evening, after all services and masses were over. The cortege would be accompanied by a number of servants with torches, which made this event even more dignified.
The graveyards were, as can be expected, the ideal playing ground for the youth, plying dice, throwing stones and shooting birds from the steeple. This improper use of the graveyard just increased, because space within the city walls was limited. The carpenters used it to saw the wood, the street vendor sold his merchandise here and sometimes pigs and chicken were found in the graveyard.
But two more reasons forced authorities to do something about the funerals within the city-walls. The first reason was the explosive increase of the population; in 1558 Amsterdam had 30.000 inhabitants, 50.000 in 1610, 100.000 in 1622, 145.000 in 1642, 170.000 in 1652 and in 1662 the population was 200.000, almost seven times more than 100 years before.
The epidemics were reason number two.
The City Council did not want to extend the graveyards near the churches, so they had to build new graveyards outside the city-walls, like the St. Anthonis graveyard. Due to the plague epidemic of 1601 the first funeral on the graveyard of the Zuiderkerk had been carried out long before the church was ready. The church was consecrated on 22nd May 1611.
Some funerals made it to the history-books. Today nobody knows who Gerrit Dircksz. den Uyl was, but in his days he was a very popular innkeeper in Sloten near Amsterdam. His funeral on 21st May 1660 was attended by so many people, that the cortege was more than 200 meters in length. We still know how much food was dispatched: 20 oxhoofden wine (an oxhoofd is 234 liters), 70 barrels of beer, bitter and sweet, 550 pounds of beef, 28 calve breasts, 12 sheep legs, 18 large pieces of wild boar and 200 pounds of minced meat. After the funeral about 50 or 60 beggars were found on the road between Sloten and Amsterdam, dead drunk.