About seven in the morning after I came to Amsterdam, where being provided with a lodging, the first thing I went to see was a Synagogue of the Jews (being Saturday), whose ceremonies, ornaments, lamps, law, and schools, afforded matter for my contemplation. The women were secluded from the men, being seated in galleries above, shut with lattices, having their heads muffled with linen, after a fantastical and somewhat extraordinary fashion; the men, wearing a large calico mantle, yellow colored, over their hats, all the while waving their bodies, while at their devotions.
From thence, I went to a place without the town, called Overkirk, where they have a spacious field assigned them to bury their dead1 , full of sepulchers with Hebraic inscriptions, some of them stately and costly. Looking through one of these monuments, where the stones were disjointed, I perceived divers books and papers lie about a corpse; for it seems, when any learned Rabbi dies, they bury some of his books with him. With the help of a stick, I raked out several, written in Hebrew characters, but much impaired. As we returned, we stepped in to see the Spin-house2 , a kind of bridewell, where incorrigible and lewd women are kept in discipline and labor, but all neat. We were shown an hospital for poor travelers and pilgrims, built by Queen Elizabeth of England; and another maintained by the city.
The State or Senate-house of this town, if the design be perfected, will be one of the most costly and magnificent pieces of architecture in Europe, especially for the materials and the carvings. In the Doole3 is painted, on a very large table4, the bust of Marie de Medicis, supported by four royal diadems, the work of one Vanderdall, who hath set his name thereon, 1st September, 1638.5
Boyd Hill, in a comment to the about page, identifies this site as the Beth Haim of Ouderkerk aan de Amstel – the oldest Jewish cemetery in the Netherlands. I have added information provided to this entry and the entry for Ouderkerk aan de Amstel ↩
“a former house of correction for prostitutes especially in England in which inmates were often made to work at spinning – Merriam-Webster dictionary ↩
Civic guards headquarters -GS ↩