Van Amstel (family)

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van Aemstel
IJsselstein wapen.svg
Country  Netherlands
Founded 12th century
Founder Wolfgerus van Amstel
Dissolution 14th century
The surviving keep of the Van Amstel castle at IJsselstein.

The Van Aemstel or Van Amstel dynasty (Dutch: Heren van Amstel, also spelled Heeren van Aemstel or Heren van Aemstel) was a major lordly dynasty in the medieval Netherlands, which held the heerlijkheid of Amstelland (the area around the Amstel), which it governed in the name of the bishop of Utrecht and the count of Holland.


Wolfger van Amstel is named in 1105 as a scultetus (bailiff) of Amestelle (Amstelland). His son Egbert built a small castle or keep (actually more just a fortified manor house) in Ouderkerk aan de Amstel, probably on the spot where the Sefardi cemetery Beth Haim was later sited. In 1204, this building was destroyed by the invading Kennemers. Gijsbrecht II was named the first dominus (lord) of Amestelle in 1226, but came into conflict with the bishop of Utrecht and was led captive into the city of Utrecht behind a horse in 1252. Arnoud of Amstel, a son of Gijsbrecht III, built the castle at IJsselstein in c.1279. His son, Gijsbert van IJsselstein, then founded the city of IJsselstein and the St. Nicolaaskerk church, where he is buried in an ornate tomb. Gijsbrecht IV (1235-1303) became a vassal of Count Floris V of Holland. Gijsbrecht subsequently became one of the most powerful men of Holland and finally decided that he wanted to be his own master. Together with other nobles, he kidnapped and unwantedly killed the count in 1296. The killing caused great outrage, the coup failed and Gijsbrecht lost his possessions and was banished. After his banishment Gijsbrecht IV probably established himself in Oss in the Duchy of Brabant. Dutch professor Pim de Boer has found indications - though no conclusive proof - that Gijsbrecht was later involved in the foundation of Prussian Holland. Gijsbrecht III's son Jan I (1270-1345) succeeded in occupying Amsterdam for a while in 1304, but the city was besieged and Jan finally had to flee from the city. Amsterdam temporarily lost its newly acquired town privileges and had to make massive reparations to the count of Holland. In 1994, the foundations of a castle were discovered in Amsterdam, possibly built by this family, though historians differ on this.

Family tree[edit]

  • Wolfgerus van Amstel (ca.1075-1131)
    • Egbert van Amstel (1105-1172)
      • Gijsbrecht I van Amstel (1145-1188)
        • Gijsbrecht II van Amstel (117-ca.1230)
          • Gijsbrecht III van Amstel (ca. 1200-ca. 1252)
          • Gijsbrecht IV van Amstel (ca. 1230-ca.1303)
      • Hendrik van Amstel (1146-after1172)


The Amstel coat of arms is depicted in the medieval Gelre Armorial (folio 107v.[1])


Dutch writer and playwright Joost van den Vondel based his play Gijsbrecht van Aemstel on the history of Gijsbrecht IV of Amstel and his son Jan I of Amstel. Gijsbrecht has a bust on the facade of the Beurs van Berlage in Amsterdam, and also has a park in the city named after him. Cafes in Amsterdam, Breskens, Arnhem, and Majorca have been named Heren van Amstel after the dynasty.

Further reading[edit]

  • Th.A.A.M. van Amstel: De heren van Amstel 1105-1378: Hun opkomst in het Nedersticht van Utrecht in de twaalfde en dertiende eeuw en hun vestigen in het Hertogdom Brabant na 1296 (Hilversum, 1999) (The Heren van Amstel 1105-1378: Their rise in the Nedersticht of Utrecht in the twelfth and thirteenth century and their establishment in the Duchy of Brabant after 1296)


External links[edit]