The Grote Kerk (Church of Our Lady) is the most important monument and a landmark of Breda. The first notice of a stone church in Breda is from 1269. In 1410, the construction of the church started with the choir. In 1468, the church was ready but in 1457 the old tower collapsed and between 1468 and 1509 the current tower was built. They continued building until 1547 when the church was finished in its current shape.
In 1566, the Reformation took place and the church was no longer Catholic. In 1637, the church became Protestant. The tower spire burned in 1694 and the current spire was built in 1702. From 1843 onwards many restorations took place, the last big restoration took place from 1993 until 1998.
The organ in the Grote Kerk of Breda is one of the largest organs in the Netherlands and its history goes back to the 16th century. At that time, the organ only possessed 16 stops. After being displaced several times, the organ arrived at its present location in the church in 1712. After restoration of the church between 1904 and 1956, a new organ was ordered from D.A. Flentrop in Zaandam.
The Prinsenkapel (Prince chapel) north of the choir is the old mausoleum of the House of Orange-Nassau, ancestors of the Dutch Royal Family. The chapel was built from 1520 until 1525 on orders of the Lord of Breda, Henry III of Nassau-Breda. Seventeen family members are buried in the chapel.
When William of Orange died the plan was to bury him also in the chapel, but Breda was at that time occupied by the Spanish. William of Orange and most of his descendants were buried in the mausoleum in the New Church in Delft.
A special part of the chapel are the vault paintings from 1533. The frescos are made by the Italian painter Tommaso di Andrea Vincidor (a student of Raphael).References:
German crusaders known as the Livonian Brothers of the Sword began construction of the Cēsis castle (Wenden) near the hill fort in 1209. When the castle was enlarged and fortified, it served as the residence for the Order's Master from 1237 till 1561, with periodic interruptions. Its ruins are some of the most majestic castle ruins in the Baltic states. Once the most important castle of the Livonian Order, it was the official residence for the masters of the order.
In 1577, during the Livonian War, the garrison destroyed the castle to prevent it from falling into the control of Ivan the Terrible, who was decisively defeated in the Battle of Wenden (1578).
In 1598 it was incorporated into the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth and Wenden Voivodship was created here. In 1620 Wenden was conquered by Sweden. It was rebuilt afterwards, but was destroyed again in 1703 during the Great Northern War by the Russian army and left in a ruined state. Already from the end of the 16th century, the premises of the Order's castle were adjusted to the requirements of the Cēsis Castle estate. When in 1777 the Cēsis Castle estate was obtained by Count Carl Sievers, he had his new residence house built on the site of the eastern block of the castle, joining its end wall with the fortification tower.
Since 1949, the Cēsis History Museum has been located in this New Castle of the Cēsis Castle estate. The front yard of the New Castle is enclosed by a granary and a stable-coach house, which now houses the Exhibition Hall of the Museum. Beside the granary there is the oldest brewery in Latvia, Cēsu alus darītava, which was built in 1878 during the later Count Sievers' time, but its origins date back to the period of the Livonian Order. Further on, the Cēsis Castle park is situated, which was laid out in 1812. The park has the romantic characteristic of that time, with its winding footpaths, exotic plants, and the waters of the pond reflecting the castle's ruins. Nowadays also one of the towers is open for tourists.