Burcht van Leiden

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Burcht van Leiden
Leiden, the Netherlands
De burcht leiden 2003.jpg
Burcht van Leiden (shell keep)
Burcht van Leiden is located in Netherlands
Burcht van Leiden
Burcht van Leiden
Coordinates52°9′32″N 4°29′32″E / 52.15889°N 4.49222°E / 52.15889; 4.49222
Site information
Open to
the public
Site history
Built1100 (1100)

The Burcht van Leiden (Dutch pronunciation: [ˈbʏr(ə)xt fɑn ˈlɛidə(n)];[1] Fort of Leiden) is an old shell keep in Leiden constructed in the 11th century. It is located at the spot where two tributaries of the Rhine come together, the Oude Rijn and the Nieuwe Rijn. The structure is on top of a motte, and is today a public park.


Southern gate to the Burcht with historic timeline 1203, 1420 and 1574 in Latin. Now facing a busy shopping street.

Originally built by Halewijn I in 1060. He was subsequently appointed viscount of Leiden by Count Dirk V of Holland. From humble beginnings, the hill was raised during various periods of history up to 9 meters above the surrounding landscape in the 11th century. Ada van Holland used the keep as a residence until her father died in 1203 and she was captured by her uncle.[2] In the same year the previous stone building was rebuilt after an attack on the castle, with tuff stone, and after Ada's removal, in 1204 it was attacked again and rebuilt with brick.

Later in the 13th century the building was considered antiquated, since more and more townspeople and houses were built around the base of the hill, making defenses impossible without destroying most of the city. The old "interior keep" that had been built against the interior walls (a similar rounded keep construction can still be seen in Teylingen) was slowly dismantled and reused for city construction.

Symbol of Leiden[edit]

Samaria in Glass 26 by Isaac van Swanenburg, mayor of Leiden, 1601, showing the watchtower above left much like the Burcht.

As the city of Leiden grew around it in the 13th and 14th centuries, the ruined castle lost its military function. The location became a romantic patriotic symbol after the Siege of Leiden in 1574, as historians recalled the earlier sieges of Leiden: Ada in 1203 and the siege in 1420 (Hook and Cod wars). The stained-glass windows number 25 & 26 in the Janskerk (Gouda) designed by the Leiden artist and councilman Isaac van Swanenburg glorifies this history in 1601 by commemorating the latest siege (glass 25, paid for by the Delft city council and featuring William the Silent as liberator) with a comparison to the "historical" story of the Siege of Samaria (glass 26, paid for by the Leiden city council and featuring the text of the biblical story with God as savior).[3] The city of Samaria is portrayed with a watch tower much like the Leidse Burcht.

Public park[edit]

In 1651 the city bought the premises to make it into a water tower for public use. A system of waterpipes leading to squares in the city is still intact.[2] In this period a new portal on the keep wall was designed in 1662 with heraldric symbols by Rombout Verhulst, denoting the leading families of the city.[4][5] There are two other gates to the Burcht, one at the base of the hill with wrought iron heraldric weapons, built in 1653, and one on the south side of the complex, which itself forms a gateway to the park. In this Southern gateway a poem in Latin was used for centuries to teach the rudiments of grammar to Leiden students. A memorial plaque was placed in 1999 with the modern translation in Dutch.[6]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ In isolation, van is pronounced [vɑn].
  2. ^ a b Dutch Rijksmonumenten site 35904 (see also north of that gate Archis: monumentnr 3069)
  3. ^ Zsuzsanna van Ruyven-Zeman, Xander van Eck and Henny van Dolder-de Wit, Het geheim van Gouda: de cartons van de Goudse glazen, Zutphen (Walburg Pers) 2002.
  4. ^ Text on the information board at the base of the hill
  5. ^ Print by J.C. Philips in 1792 after a print in 1742
  6. ^ Zelfspraak van den Burg, plaque next to the gate with a translation of the Latin text (itself a timeline of events up to 1651), placed by the Leiden student club Quintus in 1999.

External links[edit]