Most impressive castles in Netherlands

Castle de Haar

Castle de Haar is the largest and most fairytale-like castle in the Netherlands. The current buildings, all built upon the original castle, date from 1892 and are the work of Dutch architect P.J.H. Cuypers, in a Neo-Gothic restoration project funded by the Rothschild family. The oldest historical record of a building at the location of the current castle dates to 1391. In that year, the family De Haar received the castle ...
Founded: 1391/1892 | Location: Vleuten-De Meern, Netherlands

Muiderslot

The Muiderslot is one of the better known castles in the Netherlands and has been featured in many television shows set in the Middle Ages. The history of castle begins with Count Floris V who built a stone castle at the mouth of the river back in 1280, when he gained command over an area that used to be part of the See of Utrecht. The River Vecht was the trade route to Utrecht, one of the most important trade towns of th ...
Founded: 1370 | Location: Muiden, Netherlands

Valkenburg Castle Ruins

In the year 1115, fortifications were erected at the site by Gosewijn I, Lord of Valkenburg. This original wooden keep survived until 1122 when it was destroyed under siege by Henry V, Holy Roman Emperor. The castle was rebuilt in the following centuries but was again destroyed in a siege, this time by Jan III, Duke of Brabant. The current ruins are those of the castle rebuilt in the 14th century. The castle was blown up ...
Founded: 1115 | Location: Valkenburg, Netherlands

Loevestein Castle

Loevestein Castle (Slot Loevestein in Dutch) is a medieval castle built by the knight Dirc Loef van Horne (hence 'Loef's stein') between 1357 and 1397. It was built in a strategic location where the Maas and Waal rivers come together. At first it was a simple square brick building, used to charge toll from trading vessels using the rivers. In the 16th century (around 1575, orders given by William the Silent) it was expand ...
Founded: 1357-1397 | Location: Poederoijen, Netherlands

Nyenrode Castle

Around 1260 knight Gerard Splinter van Ruwiel laid the first foundations for the Nyenrode castle. The location of the castle was well-chosen: a strategic spot on the narrowest part of the bank of the river Vecht. The river Vecht was part of the trade route from the town of Utrecht to the Zuiderzee (Dutch South Sea) and was situated in an area which was heavily disputed by the Bishops of Utrecht and the Counts of Holland. ...
Founded: 1260 | Location: Straatweg, Netherlands

Doorwerth Castle

The original Doorwerth castle, probably wooden, is first mentioned in 1260 when it was besieged and burned to the ground, after which it was rebuilt in stone. In 1280 this second castle was again besieged and this time the bailey was burned down. This castle probably consisted of a simple hall-keep, two stories high with 1.20 meter thick walls, and featured a surrounding moat which was fed by the nearby river Rhine. Duri ...
Founded: 1402-1560 | Location: Doorwerth, Netherlands

Duurstede Castle

Duurstede Castle dates from the 13th century. Around 1270, Zweder I van Zuylen van Abcoude built a freestanding keep on a raised and moated site near the lost city Dorestad. Until the beginning of the 15th century Duurstede Castle was in possession by the Van Zuylen van Abcoude family, until they were forced to sell it to the bishops of Utrecht in 1449. Bishop David of Burgundy, who reigned from 1459 to 1496, completely ...
Founded: 1270 | Location: Wijk bij Duurstede, Netherlands

Radboud Castle

Kasteel Radboud is one of a number of castles in North Holland, the building was commissioned by Floris V. The exact date of building is not known but the castle was completed before the St. Lucia's Flood of 13 December 1287. On 24 June 1517 the castle saved some of the Medemblik townsfolk from the raids of Grutte Pier and his Arumer Zwarte Hoop (band of marauding pirates). On 12 August 1588 the castle surrendered to Die ...
Founded: 1287 | Location: Medemblik, Netherlands

Ammersoyen Castle

Ammersoyen castle was originally built in 1350 by Dirk van Herlaer along the river Maas. Ammersoyen was a unique castle as it was built using a fixed plan, which was unlike other castles built during this era. The design included four wings that were constructed around a center court. Each corner had its own heavy tower for extra protection. The castle included a gatehouse and was originally surrounded by a moat. At the t ...
Founded: 1350s | Location: Ammerzoden, Netherlands

Doornenburg Castle

Originally the Doornenburg castle was a fortified manor built in the 9th century, under the name Villa Dorenburc. In the 13th century it was converted into a modest castle. Through the centuries the castle was expanded further into the current form. The front-castle was built in the 15th century. The front-castle contains sleeping quarters, a chapeland a farm, the last being a unique feature for a Dutch castle. It is one ...
Founded: 13th century | Location: Doornenburg, Netherlands

Featured Historic Landmarks, Sites & Buildings

Historic Site of the week

Quimper Cathedral

From 1239, Raynaud, the Bishop of Quimper, decided on the building of a new chancel destined to replace that of the Romanesque era. He therefore started, in the far west, the construction of a great Gothic cathedral which would inspire cathedral reconstructions in the Ile de France and would in turn become a place of experimentation from where would later appear ideas adopted by the whole of lower Brittany. The date of 1239 marks the Bishop’s decision and does not imply an immediate start to construction. Observation of the pillar profiles, their bases, the canopies, the fitting of the ribbed vaults of the ambulatory or the alignment of the bays leads us to believe, however, that the construction was spread out over time.

The four circular pillars mark the start of the building site, but the four following adopt a lozenge-shaped layout which could indicate a change of project manager. The clumsiness of the vaulted archways of the north ambulatory, the start of the ribbed vaults at the height of the south ambulatory or the choice of the vaults descending in spoke-form from the semi-circle which allows the connection of the axis chapel to the choir – despite the manifest problems of alignment – conveys the hesitancy and diverse influences in the first phase of works which spread out until the start of the 14th century.

At the same time as this facade was built (to which were added the north and south gates) the building of the nave started in the east and would finish by 1460. The nave is made up of six bays with one at the level of the facade towers and flanked by double aisles – one wide and one narrow (split into side chapels) – in an extension of the choir arrangements.

The choir presents four right-hand bays with ambulatory and side chapels. It is extended towards the east of 3-sided chevet which opens onto a semi-circle composed of five chapels and an apsidal chapel of two bays and a flat chevet consecrated to Our Lady.

The three-level elevation with arches, triforium and galleries seems more uniform and expresses anglo-Norman influence in the thickness of the walls (Norman passageway at the gallery level) or the decorative style (heavy mouldings, decorative frieze under the triforium). This building site would have to have been overseen in one shot. Undoubtedly interrupted by the war of Succession (1341-1364) it draws to a close with the building of the lierne vaults (1410) and the fitting of stained-glass windows. Bishop Bertrand de Rosmadec and Duke Jean V, whose coat of arms would decorate these vaults, finished the chancel before starting on the building of the facade and the nave.

Isolated from its environment in the 19th century, the cathedral was – on the contrary – originally very linked to its surroundings. Its site and the orientation of the facade determined traffic flow in the town. Its positioning close to the south walls resulted in particuliarities such as the transfer of the side gates on to the north and south facades of the towers: the southern portal of Saint Catherine served the bishop’s gate and the hospital located on the left bank (the current Préfecture) and the north gate was the baptismal porch – a true parish porch with its benches and alcoves for the Apostles’ statues turned towards the town, completed by an ossuary (1514).

The west porch finds its natural place between the two towers. The entire aesthetic of these three gates springs from the Flamboyant era: trefoil, curly kale, finials, large gables which cut into the mouldings and balustrades. Pinnacles and recesses embellish the buttresses whilst an entire bestiary appears: monsters, dogs, mysterious figures, gargoyles, and with them a whole imaginary world promoting a religious and political programme. Even though most of the saints statues have disappeared an armorial survives which makes the doors of the cathedral one of the most beautiful heraldic pages imaginable: ducal ermine, the Montfort lion, Duchess Jeanne of France’s coat of arms side by side with the arms of the Cornouaille barons with their helmets and crests. One can imagine the impact of this sculpted decor with the colour and gilding which originally completed it.

At the start of the 16th century the construction of the spires was being prepared when building was interrupted, undoubtedly for financial reasons. Small conical roofs were therefore placed on top of the towers. The following centuries were essentially devoted to putting furnishings in place (funeral monuments, altars, statues, organs, pulpit). Note the fire which destroyed the spire of the transept cross in 1620 as well as the ransacking of the cathedral in 1793 when nearly all the furnishings disappeared in a « bonfire of the saints ».

The 19th century would therefore inherit an almost finished but mutilated building and would devote itself to its renovation according to the tastes and theories of the day.