Easy! Just go on a walk through the streets of Amsterdam, albeit slightly off the beaten path, and you will see this amazing work of the famous Russian artist Ilja Kabakov.


Located on the roof of a psychiatric clinic, the sculpture immediately sparked off debates. Doesn’t it provoke suicide in the already unstable patients? Not really, thinks the artist. It symbolizes the patient leaving the clinic, ready to embrace his Guardian Angel.

The sight is interesting for another reason: in the XVII century it was just beyond the newly built city walls, which appeared there as a result of a massive city expansion. And it was precisely on this spot, where the ‘mad house’ was built.

Not so long ago, Kabakov presented another piece of art, which again had to do with angels:

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As you can see, this is a crime scene, and the angel is the victim. Who knows, maybe it is the same angel, for whom the patient on the roof of the clinic is waiting? Well, if so, the patient needs to be told that the angel is not coming …

Meeting an angel seems to be an important topic for Kabakov. He comes back to it again and again:


In this fuller installation of “How to meet an angel” Kabakov shows that not only the ladder, but the angel too, are within the man himself, and it is all in his power to make the ascent and meet the caged angel, who, according to Kabakov, has always been inside.
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Amsterdam’s Witches


Witch Burning, 1555

Relatively few witches were tried and burned in the Netherlands. One explanation for this low number is that the Netherlands was more or less economically stable. Therefore the figure of the witch was not needed as a scapegoat blamed for bad fortune. One of the last women burned at the stake in Amsterdam was Meyn Cornelis in 1555. Cornelis said to have suffered from visions of ghostly women pestering her. Moreover, in her verdict it is noted that she admitted to sleeping with the devil and that she tried to bewitch her neighbour’s cows. This assertion was sadly, as most of the more outrageously sounding confessions, obtained under torture. The specifics of Cornelis’ trial are written down in a book of judgement which can be found today in the Amsterdam City Archives.


The Book of Judgement

In 1571 Anneken Hendriks was burnt at a stake in Amsterdam, not so much as a witch, but dangerously close. She was an Anabaptist, who were heavily persecuted at the time because of their belief in adult baptism. Bertrayed by her good Catholic neighbor and later tortured by rack and strappado, inventive tools of the Spanish Inquisition, she still refused to divulge any of the names of her fellow Anabaptists.


Strappado, the Tool of the Spanish Inquisition

But she was more talkative on the way to her burning, warning her neighbor of the sin of following in Judas’ steps, for which her executors stuffed her mouth with gunpowder.


Anneken Hendriks Burning at the Stake in Amsterdam