Trips / Oostwold / Elburg

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The fortified town of Elburg

The fortified town of Elburg has an interesting shape. In contrast to most medieval towns, the map of Elburg is not circular, but rectangular. The layout of the streets is also very regular, with lots of straight lines and 90 degree angles. Even the church is not in the centre of town, where you might expect it; it is to one side, near the old town wall.

Elburg still echoes of the Middle Ages, with its narrow alleyways, old houses and overgrown town walls. However, Elburg did not evolve like most medieval towns as a community with a church at its heart; it was designed on a drawing board. The reason for this was the second St. Marcellus flood of 1362 followed by another large flood five years later. Hundreds of people and animals died during the floods and great chunks of land crumbled into the sea. This led to Willem van Gulik, Duke of Guelders’ decision to move the whole town.

The local bailiff, Arnoudt ten Boeckop, came up with a revolutionary design. He gave Elburg the rectangular layout of a draughts board and that of a Roman town. The building started in 1392 on what was considered an enormous project at the time. Willem van Gulik announced in 1396 that he wanted to inspect the building works to assess its progress. Everyone hurriedly rallied together to get the project finished in time. When Willem arrived for his visit that autumn, the new town had been completed, except for the church, which still stood outside the town´s walls. The bishop had not yet given permission to move the church, which he eventually did, a year later. By that time, there was no more room for the church in the middle of town, which is why it is still standing in a corner near to the old town wall.

The future of Elburg as a fortified and Hanseatic town, seemed rosy. But no less than one hundred years on, Elburg had lost its trading status and was forced to rely on fishing. Five centuries later, Elburg still fits nicely inside the town walls that were built in 1392. The modern world seems to have passed the town by, which is exactly what makes Elburg such a wonderful place to visit.

Model Elburg 16th century
Model Elburg 16th century
Coat of Arms of Elburg
Coat of Arms of Elburg

Elburg City Walk

1 - Agnes monastery; Jufferenstraat 6 2 - Elburg Synagogue; Jufferenstraat 5 3 - wall houses; Zuiderwalstraat 2 4 - Jewish cemetery Elburg; City wall 5 - Elburg bridge house; Mheerpoortstraat 1 6 - Beekstraat 3 7 - Oosterwalstraat 15 8 - Notary house; Noorderkerkstraat 12 9 - Noorderkerkstraat 13 10 - Elburg city farm; Smeesteeg 2 11 - Eloth Pothuis; Ellestraat corner Vischpoort 12 - Vischpoort 13 - Casemates Elburg; Jos Lussenburghplein 14 - Rope shop; Elburg city wall 15 - De Kade; Ellestraat 52 16 - Groene Kruidhof; Ellestraat 17 - Ellestraat 44 18 - Ellestraat 43 19 - Pulli Araerum; Ellestraat 39 20 - First town hall; Krommesteeg 11 21 - Industry and Trading Company; Smeesteeg 19B 22 - Chapel of the Agnes monastery; Smeesteeg 9-11 23 - 't Olde Regthuys; Beekstraat 33 24 - Elburg primary school; Schapesteeg 8 25 - Arent thoe Boecop house / old town hall; Van Kinsbergenstraat 5 26 - Director's residence Van Kinsbergen Institute; Van Kinsbergenstraat 2 27 - Elburg city wall 28 - Grote Kerk or Sint Nicolaaskerk; Zuiderkerkstraat 1 29 - Weduwenhof; Zuiderkerkstraat 3 30 - Theekoepel; Zuiderkerkstraat 2A
Elburg map
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1Agnes monastery; Jufferenstraat 6

This building is the former St. Agnietenklooster (St. Agnes monastery) and now a museum. It has two perpendicular wings. There is a double chapel in the wing on Jufferenstraat. The property was built in the second quarter of the 15th century. The complex was originally square, however parts of the other buildings have been converted into residential houses and parts have been demolished. The monastery is named after Saint Agnes, who has been a godfather over many nunneries, especially of this order, which counted numerous supporters among the women.

Saint Agnes died as a thirteen-year-old martyr for the Christian faith. Many young men asked her to marry him, but she refused and said that she was already engaged to Jesus Christ. She was subsequently threatened and tortured and finally died because of a sword being stabbed to her. Eight days after she was buried in the catacombs of the via Nomentana, she was seen in a golden robe, with an engagement ring of Jesus Christ on her finger and a white lamb (Agnes means lamb) at her side. Her name day is on January 21.

2Elburg Synagogue; Jufferenstraat 5

Halfway through the 17th century a (second) group of Jews from Eastern Europe came to the tolerant Netherlands. These refugees were often poor and often settled in rural areas and smaller towns in the eastern provinces. In the course of the 17th and 18th centuries, more and more Jewish congregations (kehilla or kille) emerged in the countryside. Around 1700 a small Jewish community arose in Elburg. The Elburger Jews are from Germany given the surnames.

In 1764 the board of the Elburger kehilla asked permission to expand the burial place on the ramparts. Around 1800 the kehilla consisted of around 55 people. In the course of the 19th century this number increased to 120 (5% of the population of Elburg). A minjan (ten men aged 13 years and over) can now be formed, but the prayer services still took place at homes. Halfway through the 19th century, people were allowed to build a shul (synagogue). This was realized in the warehouses of the Jewish brothers Barend and Mozes Wolff in the Graaf Hendriksteeg. The synagogue of Elburg was festively inaugurated on January 19, 1855.

Above the entance there is a sign with a line from psalm 55; 'walked unto the house of God in company'.

St. Agnietenklooster
St. Agnietenklooster
Elburg Synagogue entrance
Elburg Synagogue entrance
3Wall houses; Zuiderwalstraat 2

The wall houses in the Zuiderwalstraat, diagonally opposite the entrance to the museum in the monastery, belong to one of the museum's locations. Here you can see under what circumstances the poorest Elburgers lived in the 19th century. The houses were built against the city wall in 1839. At that time the city wall no longer played a role in the defense of the city.

4Jewish cemetery Elburg; City wall

The Jewish cemetery is located along the walking path on the east side of the old town. Although the oldest gravestone dates from 1768, funerals almost certainly took place there before that year. The text above the entrance gate means: Even if I went into the shadow of death, I would fear no evil, for You are with me.

Wall houses
Wall houses
Jewish cemetery
Jewish cemetery
5Elburg bridge house; Mheerpoortstraat 1

This house is built over 'de Beek' ('the creek') and against the old city wall. On the façade, the windows in a profiled frame stand out.

6Beekstraat 3

This building has a beautiful neck gable (façade whose middle part is raised higher to a rectangular top between sculpted wings pieces). The Latin text 'Luctor et Emergo' means 'I struggle and emerge'. At the Beekstraat 3 building, Jewish Maud Peper (1936) with her two-year-younger sister Riek was taken care of at the end of 1944 by the Westerink family. This family had one daughter Johanna (1923).

In the US, a documentary with the title 'The Hidden Child' was made about the story of Maud Peper (Maud Dahme).

Bridge house
Bridge house
Beekstraat 3
Beekstraat 3
7Oosterwalstraat 15

Elburg was once a rustic fishing and trading village on the Zuiderzee. After being plagued by floods for centuries, a rigorous decision to relocate the town was made following the hurricane of 1362 and the flood of 1367. Elburg was not only rebuilt, but also became a solid fortress with canals, walls and a large number of defense towers. A large part of the fortress was demolished in the 19th century to make room for new housing for the growing population.

The house at Oosterwalstraat 15 was built in one of the Elburg defense towers. The city wall, closed by a semicircular tower, dates from the last quarter of the 14th century.

8Notary house; Noorderkerkstraat 12

This large mansion has a surrounding hipped roof with corner chimneys. The façade dates from the 19th century (according to the sign on the façade in 1821. Other sources indicate that it was built in the second part of the 19th century). The side and rear façades are from the 18th century.

The building has been inhabited for a long time by the Hoefhamer family. First the profession of blacksmith regularly appeared in the family, later the Hoefhamers became notaries. No fewer than four generations of notaries were active in Elburg in the period 1813-1952.

Oosterwalstraat 15
Oosterwalstraat 15
Notary house
Notary house
9Noorderkerkstraat 13

This building is part of a series of façades that form a harmonious street scene (no. 13-15). The façade is from 1595.

10Elburg city farm; Smeesteeg 2

According to a report from 1526, there were nearly 150 farmers in Elburg, only a few of whom lived outside the city walls. Together these farmers owned 101 horses, 437 cows, 871 oxen and 249 sheep, a fortune at the time. All these cattle were kept in stables in the city during the winter, in the summer it went to a common meadow outside. There is still a farm in Elburg at this location.

Noorderkerkstraat 13
Noorderkerkstraat 13
Elburg city farm
Elburg city farm
11Pothuis; Ellestraat corner Vischpoort

House with a gable roof, closed on the Ellestraat side by a stepped gable. On the side wall we find a so-called pothuis. It is a half above the ground extension of the basement where craftsman used to work in the light and close to the street. Coins were minted in the building. In a certain period this was strictly prohibited, because Elburg did not have the rights to mint coins.

12Vischpoort

The Vischpoort (Fish Gate) is the main gate. Placed near the harbor, the Vischpoort also served as a lighthouse. The Vischpoort used to be a closed defense gate. The passage was opened in 1392. The gate was built under the supervision of mayor Ernst Reeffs for the sum of 400 daalders and six stuivers.

In 1592, Prince Maurits visited Elburg to inspect the fortifications, and expressed his appreciation for it. The heavy oak doors of the Vischpoort could be closed in the event of danger.

The current doors were put there in 1992. Earlier (in 1853) the city authorities had the doors removed from all gates, after the lifting of gate fees had stopped the year before. With that, the function of the gatekeeper also became redundant.

Pothuis
Pothuis
Vischpoort
Vischpoort
13Casemates Elburg; Jos Lussenburghplein

With the introduction of bronze and iron cannons, Elburg's fortress was reinforced with earthen ramparts. Casemates were built at the various gates to defend the entrances to the city.

A casemate means: space covered against enemy fire and provided with a shooting hole for setting up a firearm; initially part of a fortification, later detached. The casemates in Elburg are among the oldest surviving cannon cellars in the Netherlands.

14Rope shop; Elburg city wall

The Deetman family's rope shop has been in operation for centuries. The lijnbaan (ropery) is the oldest in the Netherlands. The old craft of rope-making is directly linked to Elburg's maritime and fishing history.

The rope-maker did his work in the open air, on a ropery: a sometimes 300 meter long, narrow strip of land above which some yarn strands supplied by a spinner were hung. The yarns were attached to a wheel at one of the ends of the line. The wheel was then, usually by children, turned around so that a rope was formed by torsion. The process could then be repeated with some of such ropes, so that it was possible to produce different rope thicknesses.

Casemates
Casemates
Rope shop
Rope shop
15De Kade; Ellestraat 52

De Kade is an evangelical guidance center. People with psychological problems are helped by religious beliefs. This building has a beautifully decorated spout façade with a twisted pinnacle in the top.

16Groene Kruidhof; Ellestraat

The Groene Kruidhof is a herb garden which was laid out in 1980. The location is where the court of the Holy Guest House used to be. Medicinal herbs were grown in this court. In the back you will find a number of medieval herbs, in the front the herbs that were also used by pharmacists in the 17th and 18th centuries.

De Kade
De Kade
Groene Kruidhof
Groene Kruidhof
17Ellestraat 44

Originally this building was one large mansion. Today it is split into two houses. The door is richly carved with (coil) panels and empire toplight (window above the door). The empire style (1790-1840) is characterized by symmetrical block-shaped, often plastered buildings and ornaments inspired by the Egyptian excavations. The door has a pilaster frame. The cornice (the roof edge) is richly carved.

18Ellestraat 43

This 17th century house has a gable; a façade which top forms a triangle. With the numbers 37 and 39-41, the house forms a monumental triad.

Ellestraat 44
Ellestraat 44
Ellestraat 43
Ellestraat 43
19Pulli Arearum; Ellestraat 39

This house has a bell gable with rococo decorations around the top window. From 1294 until 1911 (see the stone in the façade) one living chicken (pullus) or its value was paid to the owner of this land (arearum) on which this house stands. This method only took place in this (oldest) part of Elburg.

20First town hall; Krommesteeg 11

It is said that this building is the old town hall, but according to others this is not correct. The building was built around 1400 by knight Pelgrim van Putten to trade beer herbs (gruit) and collect money from all the beer that was brewed in Elburg. After selling the building, it has been used as a city farm for the longest period.

Pulli Araerum
Pulli Araerum
First town hall
First town hall
21Industry and Trading Company; Smeesteeg 19B

According to the text Industrie en Handelsonderneming (Industry and Trading Company) on the façade, an industrial and commercial enterprise was located in the building. On every floor there are hatches to store or dispatch goods. A lifting beam at the top of the façade is missing, so other techniques may have been used.

22Chapel of the Agnes monastery; Smeesteeg 9-11

In 1425 the chapel of the first Agnes monastery was built here. The nuns then lived in six houses in Vischpoortstraat (number 513). The murals that were found in this chapel in 1949 are now in the Gemeentemuseum (municipal museum). The murals picture:

  • St. Christoffel, the patron saint of travelers.
  • St. Katharina, the patron saint of philosophers, wheelwright and millers.
  • St. Thomas, one of the twelve apostles.

Thomas became known because he first had doubts but then fanatically professed the Christian faith. Hence the phrase 'unbelieving Thomas'.

The partially plastered façade is not very special.

Industry and Trading Company
Industry and Trading Company
Chapel Agnes monastery
Chapel Agnes monastery
23't Olde Regthuys; Beekstraat 33

Like Doesburg, Harderwijk and Arnhem, also Elburg administered justice with a case law derived from that of Zutphen. The façade contains a facing brick with 't Olde Regthuys, 1598 (the old court house, 1598). On the façade is also the text: 'Victrix triumphet veritas 1596' ('may the truth prevail'). This is because of the suspicion that justice was administered in this building. The verdicts were read out on the Myddelbroche, the bridge at the intersection of Jufferenstraat and Beekstraat, and were carried out in public. It appears that even executions took place in public in Elburg. The outside appearance of the property dates from the early 19th century. The building has a beautifully carved door from around 1800.

24Elburg primary school; Schapesteeg 8

This building from around 1600 (although that is not certain) has a gabled façade. From the 1st floor to the attic there is a mouse-tooth pattern in the masonry. The door frame with sculpted lintel (floral ornament) and posts contains fruit garlands and a snake (the designer didn't mean that the school was a snake pit?). That it was busy with children is evident from the worn out threshold.

A tumbling course is a sloping course of bricks that are set perpendicular to a straight-line gable in Dutch architecture or its derivatives. The arrangement provides a better seal against the penetration of moisture through the masonry joints than one in which all courses of bricks within the gable are laid in horizontal courses up to the peak of the gable. Where a sloping course of bricks intersects a horizontal masonry course, the arrangement of brickwork so formed is called a mouse-tooth pattern.

't Olde Regthuys
't Olde Regthuys
Elburg primary school
Elburg primary school
25Arent thoe Boecop house / old town hall; Van Kinsbergenstraat 5

The building was built by the Duke of Gelre, Willem van Gulik. He donated this property to his steward, Arent thoe Boecop (ca. 1335-1397), who founded the new Elburg in 1392. From 1400 until 1954 it was the townhall of Elburg.

26Former Director's residence Van Kinsbergen Institute; Van Kinsbergenstraat 2

Former orphanage and Latin school, rebuilt in 1777. The building used to be part of the Van Kinsbergen Institute for education, founded by Dutch Admiral Jan Hendrik van Kinsbergen in 1809. Today the building is used as an administrative building of the protestant church Elburg.

Jan Hendrik van Kinsbergen was a Dutch Naval officer. Van Kinsbergen won fame in the service of the Russian empress Catherine II. He commanded the Russian fleet in the Black Sea against the Turks in the 1770s. After his return to the Republic, he successfully fought the North African (Barbary) pirates. During the Fourth Anglo-Dutch War at sea (1780–1784), Van Kinsbergen distinguished himself in the battle of Doggersbank in 1781. In 1796 Van Kinsbergen returned to the old house of his deceased parents in Elburg, dedicating his life to philanthropy.

Arent thoe Boecop house
Arent thoe Boecop house
Director's residence Van Kinsbergen Institute
Director's residence Van Kinsbergen Institute
27Elburg city wall

Behind the director's house of the Van Kinsbergen Institute a part of the city wall can be seen (a fragment of the city wall closed by a semicircular lighthouse, built in the 4th part of the 16th century). The old city wall is 1.8 kilometers long and runs not only through gardens, but also across more than thirty homes.

28Grote Kerk or Sint Nicolaaskerk; Zuiderkerkstraat 1

The bishop of Utrecht gave permission in 1397 to build this church within the city walls. The patron saint of the church is St. Nicholas, the patron saint of fishermen and other seafarers. The steeple was lost by a lightning strike in 1693. The bell chair has a sound of three bells. A wooden sundial is mounted on a buttress of the church which dates from 1782.

Elburg city wall
Elburg city wall
St. Nicholas church
St. Nicholas church
29Weduwenhofje; Zuiderkerkstraat 3

The Weduwenhof (Widow Court), founded in 1549 by a priest, consists of three wings around an elongated inner square, closed by a gate with a pediment with decorations. Under the pediment there is an inscription that reads 'Anno 1650 - Weduwenhof'.

During the restoration of the houses on the widow's courtyard, an approximately four-meter deep well was excavated in one of the living rooms. A glass plate has been laid over it, which is sunk into the floor of the living room. The light in the well can be switched on with a switch. White gravel lies on the bottom, with groundwater bubbling up between them.

30Theekoepel; Zuiderkerkstraat 2A

On the corner of the streets Zuiderkerkstraat and Hondegatsteeg there is a theekoepel (tea dome). There are more of these in Elburg. This building stems from the early 19th century, and stood previously with three more domes outside the city.

Weduwenhofje
Weduwenhofje
Theekoepel
Theekoepel

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