Oudezijds Voorburgwal and Oudezijds Achterburgwal on the city’s old side run in a southerly direction as far as Grimburgwal, a cross-canal, which until the beginning of the fifteenth century formed the city border. Amsterdam’s main street was Nes, which formerly was a dike on the districts western boundary.
In the 14th and 15th century the part of town west of Oudezijds Voorburgwal was almost completely occupied by monasteries and hospitals. Street names like Gebed zonder End (prayer without end), Monnikenstraat (monk street), Cellebroerssteeg (cell brother spawning) and Bloedstraat (blood street (it was here in this street monks performed bloodletting in the middle ages)) still remind of those days.
After the Alteratie in 1578 most of the monasteries where shut down, the last monks of the last monastery left in 1585.
The buildings were converted into hospitals and housings and some churches and chapels got new and different purposes over time. For instance was the chapel of the church of the Brothers of Saint Paul converted into a church for Huguenots. It’s still in use to this day and is now called Waalse Kerk – and the service is held in French. Another part of the complex was converted into a spinning mill.
The Pieters hospital was turned into an abattoir and the Agnietenkapel was used by Atheneum Illustre, a forerunner of Amsterdam’s University. One of the city’s most beautiful baroque gates form the entrance to the whole complex.
In 1879 the monastery of the Old Nuns, which was part of the University, became a home for old men and women.
The monastery of the New Nuns became a hospital which was only closed in 1982, because the Academisch Medisch Center was opened in Amsterdam Zuidoost.