Willemstad Fortress

Willemstad, Netherlands

In 1583 the Spanish took the town of Steenbergen situated just south of the current Willemstad. According to William I of Orange'this formed a threat for the rest of the Netherlands and he decided to fortify the village of Ruigenhil. William came into possession of the town after the new marquis took sides with the Spanish in 1567 and was discharged of his possession. As a dispensation for all the costs of the war William was declared the new marquis by the Dutch state.

The position of Ruigenhil was a very strategic one; right on the border between the southern and northern Netherlands along one of the most important Dutch rivers, the Maas. Abraham Andriesz (an prolific military engineer in the Netherlands at that time) designed the fortications in 1583.

In 1584, the same year William I of Orange died, the city was renamed Willemstad in his honour. In 1609 a twelve year long truce was signed between Spain and the Netherlands. As a consequence of this the discharge of the old marquis in 1567 was declared illegal and the lands had to be returned. Willemstad remained in the hands of Maurits (William's son) because William fortified the town (according to the treaty the parties had the right to keep the towns they fortified). From that time on Willemstad has always been an estate of the crown, giving it special rights and a certain amount of independence. The fortifications have changed over the years in accordance with updated fortification theories and the overall form of the current fortress dates from the 1680s.

The fortifications were designed according to the Old Dutch System, only here the flanks of the bastions'are not perpendicular to the curtain walls but have a retreated curved shape (the use of these arrow-headed bastions'suggests an Italian influence) and are quite short. In later years some of these flanks were modified to make them perpendicular to the curtain wall. Apart from the walls facing the sea, which were revetted in brick, all the ramparts were unrevetted earthworks.

The seaward front of the town consists of two bastions with water in front of them. Between this water and the river (which in the past was part of the sea) there is a glacis, which prevented ships from coming too close to the walls and gave extra protection against enemy fire. A small canal connects the harbour inside the city with the river. The water in the ditch'is cut of from the river by a dam.

In later centuries buildings like powder magazines, bombshelters and, in WW II, blockhouses have been added. These mainly 19th century later additions to the fortress are quite extensive and very well preserved.

The fortress officially lost its military status in 1926. The population of Willemstad asked for the preservation of the fortifications and today the town and its surroundings are a monument. According to me the beauty of this fortress lies in two things: the waterworks with the harbour and the surrounding lands. The harbour is still right near the water and is used intensively, this also adds to the historic atmosphere.

References:

Comments

Your name



Details

Founded: 1583
Category: Castles and fortifications in Netherlands

More Information

www.fortified-places.com

Rating

4.2/5 (based on Google user reviews)

User Reviews

Jan de Nijs (10 months ago)
Nice Fort with terrace for a drink and apple pie or sandwich and historic surroundings and nice managers who explain.
Jan Bierkens (11 months ago)
Nice location, with friendly owners, easy to park The smallest fortress in the Netherlands. Definitely worth a visit???Address Helsedijk 85 At The End Of A Dead End Dike, 4797 SJ Willemstad The Netherlands
Nanny Bierkens Brouwers (11 months ago)
Very nice and quiet location for a drink and a nice chat on this terrace. Linda and Berry have just started at this location, a very friendly, enthusiastic and sweet couple. Linda herself marries people there. Berry is happy to give you a tour and tell you about the history of Fort de Hel. They have very nice plans, and are busy with them, such as music performances. So definitely recommended. And keep an eye on it. You can also follow them on Facebook and Instagram. We will definitely come back here.
Maupower (2 years ago)
Nice to see and have a drink and eat on the terrace.
Boris Bronneberg (3 years ago)
Leuk om te zien. Was verder nog gesloten maar zag er allemaal goed verzorgd uit
Powered by Google

Featured Historic Landmarks, Sites & Buildings

Historic Site of the week

The Church of the Holy Cross

The church of the former Franciscan monastery was built probably between 1515 and 1520. It is located in the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Old Rauma. The church stands by the small stream of Raumanjoki (Rauma river).

The exact age of the Church of the Holy Cross is unknown, but it was built to serve as the monastery church of the Rauma Franciscan Friary. The monastery had been established in the early 15th century and a wooden church was built on this location around the year 1420.

The Church of the Holy Cross served the monastery until 1538, when it was abandoned for a hundred years as the Franciscan friary was disbanded in the Swedish Reformation. The church was re-established as a Lutheran church in 1640, when the nearby Church of the Holy Trinity was destroyed by fire.

The choir of the two-aisle grey granite church features medieval murals and frescoes. The white steeple of the church was built in 1816 and has served as a landmark for seafarers.