Naarden is a highlight of the Het Gooi woodland area southeast of Amsterdam, thanks to its remarkable fortress, Naarden-Vesting (Naarden-Fortification), on its northwest border. A military work of art, it has the shape of a 12-pointed star, with arrowheads at each tip, and a double ring of moats. This defence system, one of the best preserved in the country, was built only after the Spanish massacred the inhabitants in the 16th century. The bastions were staffed by the Dutch army until the 1920s, long after its strategic importance had become moot.
The history of the city of Naarden dates back to the reign of Emperor Otto I (936 - 968). Naarden started in 996 as a harbor village on the Zuiderzee, then also part of Gooiland. At that time the town was named Naruthi. The city experienced a lot of bad luck and was plundered, burned down and largely drowned over time. Presumably the city received around 1300 city rights from Count Floris V.
Naarden was not at the place where it is now. It was north of the current city. Because the advancing water of the Zuiderzee threatened the town more and more, it was decided to rebuild the city in a safer place after it was destroyed during the Hoekse en Kabeljauwse twisten (Hook and Cod wars). This place is a spur of the Utrechtse Heuvelrug and is also the only place where people could travel from the east of the country to the important cities of the county of Holland in the west. To the south lay vast peat bogs and to the north the Zuiderzee.
It was rebuilt in 1355 by the Count of Holland, Duke William of Bavaria. The original street pattern of the Naarden fortress has been preserved in its entirety up to the present, including the double walls.
The Massacre of Naarden was an episode of mass murder and looting that took place in Naarden in 1572 during the Eighty Years' War. The massacre was committed by Spanish soldiers under the command of Fadrique Álvarez de Toledo against the townspeople of Naarden as part of a punitive expedition against Dutch rebels later known as the Spanish Fury. The destruction of the city galvanized the Dutch rebels, leading them to continue the Dutch War of Independence against Spain.
It was clear that Naarden had to be better defended. Fortifications were built, and were further expanded by the French who, under the leadership of Louis XIV, had conquered the neglected fortress in 1672 without a struggle. However, these improvements could not prevent the city from being recaptured in 1673 by William III of Orange.
John Amos Comenius, 17th century Moravian born Czech educational reformer and religious leader was buried in the city, and his mausoleum is open for visitors. Comenius is remembered mainly for his innovations in methods of teaching, especially languages. He died in Amsterdam in 1670. For unclear reasons he was buried in Naarden.
From November 1813 to May 1814, the Siege of Naarden was carried out by the Dutch army after the French General Quétard de la Porte (who had taken the fortress in 1795) refused to give up the fortress after the capitulation of Napoleon.
From the 17th century Naarden was part of the Old Dutch Waterline, and later the New Dutch Waterline. The Fortress Ronduit, built in the period 1873-1875 on the remains of an earlier defense work on the north side of Naarden, is the most north-eastern part of the Waterline.
Despite its earlier importance, Naarden's population was surpassed by Hilversum in the 18th century and today it is smaller than its neighbour Bussum. The city's distinctive shape made it a rallying point for Allied bombers returning to England after raids on Germany.
Naarden was a separate municipality until 2015. On 1 January 2016, the municipality of Naarden merged with Muiden and Bussum to form the new municipality of Gooise Meren.
Naarden City Walk
1The Utrecht Gate
The Utrechtse Poort the Utrecht Gate (1877). During its long existence Naarden has had many gates. In 1915 there were only two gates left, the "Amsterdamse Poort" (the Amsterdam Gate) and the "Utrechtse Poort" (the Utrecht Gate). The first one was demolished in that year because it was simply too narrow for the ever growing military and civilian traffic. Might the Army need to withdraw, it had to do so fast. The "Utrechtse Poort" (the Utrecht Gate) remained intact because a choice was made to simply make a new road next to the gate. As you can see it is a beautifully made gate and a true treasure for the town's entrance. Inside the gate there are 2 rooms: the city guard was residing inside but, when necessary, it was also used as a provisional prison. After the comming of the steam tram and the connection of Naarden to the reqional tramway, the tram would use the gate entrance.
2The artillery canteen
De artillerie kantine (the artillery canteen) was built in 1880 to provide some recreation for the troops stationed in the quite austere barracks. The canteen had enough to offer to have a relatively good time.
The Utrecht Gate
The artillery canteen
3The Promers barracks
"De Promers kazerne" - the Promers barracks - was built between 1875 and 1877. It used to be an underground barracks for 350 soldiers with a hospital, ammunition depot and kitchens. Underneath are still some working large water cisterns fed by rainfall and providing the barracks with high quality drinking water. Behind the barracks you can find the gorge of the bastion (stairs 100 meter left or 100 meter right). This bastion was stronger than the other five because in a normal situation the enemy had no choice than to approach the fortress from the east. When the doors are open jou can walk in and have a look. The Latin words above the entrance "Si vis pacem para bellum" mean ", if you want peace, be prepared for war.
4The Spanish house
Het Spaanse huis (the Spanish house), as can be seen on the stone at the front of the building this medieval city hall got its nickname in 1572 when hundreds of men were killed by the Spanish soldiers inside or in front of this building. Naarden was completely destroyed by the Spanish troops in the Dutch Revolt because the city at first refused to surrender although the town was legally Spanish. The commanding officer then ordered the killing of all inhabitants and destruction of the town as an example for other cities in Holland, Amsterdam, Haarlem and Alkmaar. Amsterdam did surrender but Haarlem decided to fight, was defeated and came to the same sad end. Alkmaar managed to successfully withstand the Spanish attack at high costs. The building was later used as the city's weighing house. After the invasion of the French in 1795 they used the building as a bakery. The ovens are still there. Nowadays the building houses a museum of scales.
The Promers barracks
The Spanish house
The Turfpoort bastion is the location where you can find the fortress Museum. The museum gives you the history of the development of fortresses in general, Naarden itself and the Dutch Waterline. In the underground barracks and cellars you can experience how the garrison lived and worked. When the weather allows it there is a boat tour available that shows you the Fortress moats. Every 3rd Sunday in a month one or more cannons will be fired at the lower flank of the museum. (also in wintertime).
The Dutch Fortress Museum
Naarden dates from 1350 and is one of the few fortified towns in the Netherlands that has remained mostly intact. This former capital of the Gooi region was strategically placed on a sand ridge between the former Zuiderzee and the Naarder Lake and protected Amsterdam against attacks from the East.
1Entrance: bastion Turfpoort
The Dutch Fortress Museum has its housing on bastion Turfpoort (the Peat Gate) which dates from 1675. A bastion is a pentagonal fortification of the main wall. Naarden is a star shaped fortified town because of six of these bastions.
2Casemate A: history of fortification
Case mate A is a brick and mortar building, covered with earth. It is so called "bomb proof" meaning that massive cannon balls cannot damage it. The guns that were placed here, fired oblique along the wall and the ravel in (fortified island in the moat), the deadly crossfire.
3Right Lower flank
Three '12 pounder' cannons, model 1786 cast between 1810 - 1820, can be found on the right lower flank. A mast for testing gun powder, as used in the 18th and 19th century, can be found in front of the gun powder room.
The safest place on the bastion is the gunpowder room. The gunpowder was stored here in barrels of oak, with copper bands (to prevent spark ignition). Now you can see a video on Dutch fortification here.
5Casemate Z: history of Naarden
Behind the entrance you'll find on the right the corridor to the departure for the museum boat. The main corridor of casemate Z has an exhibit on the history of Naarden and leads to five adjoining gun emplacements
This 61 meters long corridor is situated parallel to the main wall. At night a soldier patroled here to listen for the enemy trying to cross the moat. Because there were no searchlights, the only way was to listen for sounds of enemy movement. The corridor has "ears" on top of the wall and is sound enhancing by its shape.
7Casemate W: history of the Dutch Waterlines
In casemate W at the left lower flank (13) is a presentation on the history of the Dutch Waterlines through the ages. These Waterlines have always been an important part of the national defences.
Goat huthes for the goats that are used to help cutting the grass at the museum.
9Casemate IJ: Temporary exhibition and "Life in the garrison"
This casemate has two floors and was built in 1875. The main corridor was used as sleeping quarters in wartime situations for 48 soldiers and two separate quarters for NCO's and officers. At the end of the main corridor are emplacements for heavy mortars. Through a small corridor you'll reach the room for ammunition and gunpowder.
6St. Vitus Church
De grote of St. Vituskerk - the big or St Vitus church - The church stands exactly in the middle of the town and was built from 1380 until it's completion into its current form in 1518. During the construction the church was suffering from several large fires leading to an ever growing construction when rebuilding it. The original plan was much more modest. When it was built, the church was catholic. In the Catholic years the entrance was underneath the tower. After the reformation around 1580 the entrance was constructed at the other side of the building. The reformation also took care of all the Catholic paintings and ornaments. They were either removed or painted over with white paint. During an intensive restoration between 1965 and 1978 the paintings were rediscovered and it turned out they were a sensation because of their unique appearance. The oak choir gate dating back at 1531 is every year the backdrop for the orchestra and choir of the "Nederlandse Bachvereniging" whose concerts at the days before Easter of the "Mettheus Passion" by Johan Sebastian Bach are almost a ritual in Dutch cultural life. The main organ dating 1862 is regularly in use. The fine looking pulpit dating 1550 is decorated with a minute glass remembering the parson to keep the duration of his preach within the limits agreed upon. A preach too long could lead to a fine called "minute glass fine". The tower is open for visitors (not always, so please inform yourself) to enjoy the beautiful view.
St. Vitus Church
Het stadhuis (the town hall) constructed in 1601, is a fine example of the Dutch renaissance style. The building gives evidence that the city in these years was well provided with money. When considering the fact that the whole city was more or less destroyed in 1572 it proves that Naarden at that moment in history was not unimportant both econornically and military as an outpost in the defense of Amsterdam. At the top of the building you can see the stepped gable with a statue "maternal love". Furthermore you can see the coat of arms of Naarden, the double headed eagle, Noordholland, WestFriesland and Prince Maurits, the regent at the time. At the façade you can see 3 statues; Faith, Hope and Justice, the last one in the middle. In the 17th century the sheriff was also the judge and the hearings took place in this building. Because of this there was also a jail in the cellar. Behind the beautiful entrance a reception room can be found in the chamber of the magistrates. This room is very popular for wedding ceremonies. The room is still decorated as it was at the beginning of the 17th century. Behind the town hall you can find the modern housing of the city council.
Comenius (1592-1670) as a philosopher and teacher has delivered a major contribution to education in the whole of Europe. His idea that it would be good to divide classes into age groups is still in use today. Apart from that he has produced many more ideas about how to improve education. Comenius was also much involved in the reformation process in the 17th century. Because of his involvement and because of the ongoing wars caused by all this religious turmoil he had to leave his country and after travelling through Europe he finally ended up in Amsterdam where he lived until his death in 1670. The reason he is buried in Naarden is probably due to the fact that his protector, a wealthy Amsterdam merchant called De Geer, has arranged it, the exact reasons are not known. The Comenius museum and the mausoleum are to be found at the "Kloosterstraat".
The Groot Arsenaal (Major Arsenal) is situated at the bastion Oud Molen and currently known for its lifestyle and design centre, an initiative by the Dutch designer Jan des Bouvrie. The building was originally built in 1688 as a storage facility for military equipment, mainly weapons. The square was used as a place where the many cannonballs you needed for all the guns were stored in small pyramids. During the First World War the building was used as barracks and sleeping quarters for the sick soldiers who were taken to the underground hospital at the rear of the bastion. During the Second World War the German Army had stables and maintenance facilities at the bastion. The Arsenal was used by the Dutch Army until 1986. In the middle of the building at the harbor side you can see ornaments showing all the weapons stored there: cannons, cannonballs, pike's and lances. If you want to see the whole of the bastion please walk towards the bridge again, turn left and walk to the rear where you can see the several underground buildings originally housing the many different activities needed by the military.
The Turfloods was made for the storage of turf (peat). It's appearance is actually much too impressive for this humble use. During the 19th century it was used as an extra arsenal and used for the storage of artillery and other military equipment. After 1967 it's is used as a restaurant.
Inside the former orphanage, the city and regional archive can be found. This monumental house was originally used as a private house owned by one of the richest Naarden families, Heshuysen. They owned the stagecoach company known as the "Hamburger Post". In the period 1828-1928 the house was used as an orphanage, after 1928 it was used for several things until it was bought and turned into the city archive in 1991.
12The Comenius museum
The Comenius museum tells the story of the earlier mentioned Jan Amos Comenius. Comenius is buried at the former cloister chapel now called the Comenius mausoleum. In 1936/ 37 the chapel was renovated and Tsjech artists have created a nice bronze gate. They also made the glazed windows that show images of the life of Comenius. The cloister, dating back at least to the 15th century, was used after the reformation as an orphanage and after that as military barracks for centuries. In 1986 the military finally left Naarden and the complex was restored, the Comenius museum got her location here, next to the Mausoleum, and the remaining buildings are now in use as apartments or offices.
The Comenius museum
Bastion Oranje is an interesting Bastion because it has a wide range of military elements. When standing at the barracks square you can see the building "G", built 1875-1877 and originally housing 175 soldiers and 3 officers. Inside there is a 35 meters long underground corridor leading towards the casemate "H" used for the housing of the 3 heavy mortars stationed at the center of the bastion defending the eastside of the fortress. The mortars are protected by heavy earth walls and were invisible for the enemy. At the front of the bastion you can see a wall dividing the moat. Until 1926 Naarden had salt water at the north side and a tidal difference because this water was connected to the in this year closed "Zuyderzee" (now the IJsselmeer), so this dam and the other one more to the west were essential to keep dry feet in town. The building "I" was used as an ammunition depot, hence it was made of strong brickwork and heavily covered in earth.
Gooi & Vecht, enjoy the green oasis of "de Randstad".
Situated between Amsterdam and Utrecht you find the Gooi Wandelsymbool Vecht region with the towns Naarden, Muiden, Weesp, Laren, Blaricum, Bussum, Huizen, Hilversum and Wijdemeren. The region shows a rich history with its impressive fortress, large manors, small former pheasant townships and nature. Nature consisting of forests, moorlands and beautiful lakes. You can escape from the turmoil of the big cities and enjoy modern art and architecture. There is also an exclusive range of shops, restaurants and terraces. Hilversum has been the centre of the Dutch media world almost since broadcasting started. Look for a complete oversight of all the possibilities at the website www.gooivecht.nl.