269. Westerkerk – X-rated church?

It is pretty hard to miss the tower of Westerkerk in Amsterdam, and what better place to see some wonderful art, sculpture and my favourite bit – beautiful, ornate and unique organs, than in a church? A refreshing change comapared to packed museums with hefty entrance fees.

Whilst looking around the interior of Westerkerk, I noticed yet another example of the cities ‘XXX’ branding. Amsterdam is home to a number of world famous advertising and creative agencies, so I had assumed that the very well branded public services of the city were a by-product of that. The ‘XXX’ symbol is absolutely everywhere, and it looks like a relatively modern, simple yet effective logo. I had wondered a few times what it came from, the obvious initial link being to the red light district. When I spotted it built in to the chandeliers in this incredibly old church I thought there definitely HAD to be more to the story.

A little research revealed it is actually the Cross of St Andrew (as he was supposedly martyred on such a diagonal cross), and the Coat of Arms of Amsterdam contains three silver St Andrew’s crosses in the middle. In line with my original suspicions, however, the imagery now synonymous with three x’s does hail from Amsterdam – it used to be the only place you could legally buy pornography, which would arrive packaged with a ‘XXX’ to represent the city.