At an early age, Pieter Jansz. Saenredam's was exposed to the work of famous artists. His father, an engraver, made copies of works by artists such as Hendrick Goltzius and Abraham Bloemaert. After his father's death in 1607, Saenredam and his mother moved to Haarlem, where he worked for ten years. In 1623 he entered Haarlem's painters' guild. Three years later, commissioned to produce illustrations for a history of Haarlem, Saenredam made his first drawing of the interior of the church of Saint Bavo. From then on, he devoted himself almost exclusively to painting church interiors, always using precise perspective. Of his fifty surviving paintings, almost half show the interiors of two churches, Saint Bavo and the Mariakerk in Utrecht.
Saenredam's sacred spaces are designed for contemplation. Unlike his flamboyant predecessors who evoked the pomp, pageantry, and theatre of churches--usually Roman Catholic--Saenredam painted the whitewashed austerity of the Dutch Reformed church. There are no processions, no clusters of worshippers at shrines. He adopted a very low viewpoint and a palette restricted to the palest of tones, and allowed few people into his bare interiors. He concentrated on depicting light, color, and space. Many Dutch artists continued his tradition, but few equaled his inventive vision.