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Fortress city 's-Hertogenbosch

's-Hertogenbosch is a fortified city, which is immediately obvious when you arrive in the inner city. For a large part, the walls are still proudly standing and the inner city is surrounded by water. In this article, I will briefly take you through the history of the fortified city of 's-Hertogenbosch and I will also tell you what you can still see and visit of the fortress.

History of the fortified town

The city of 's-Hertogenbosch was founded on a sand heap in the delta of the rivers Aa and Dommel. The name 's-Hertogenbosch comes from 'des hertogen bosch', the forest of Duke Hendrik I of Brabant. And in 1196 this duke granted 's-Hertogenbosch city rights and trading privileges. A wall was built to protect the prosperous city.

The walled city was enlarged three times. The first enlargement was also the largest in size. Houses were even built against the wall; we call these wall houses. In the mid-fourteenth century, the city outgrew its size and the walls were moved. The wall houses were demolished again.

Progress did not stand still, gunpowder and the development of weapons made the artillery increasingly powerful, the walls had to be strengthened. So, in the 16th century, the decision was made to turn the ramparts into bastions. Money played a role in making this happen. There was not enough money at that time. Fortunately, because of its location in the landscape, 's-Hertogenbosch was largely surrounded by water. Part of the year, the entire area around 's-Hertogenbosch was under water and the city could only be reached by boat or via two narrow access roads, so it was nice and safe. In the early 17th century, the necessary money was gathered and the bastions could be built, these were placed at the most strategic places.

The purpose of the fortifications was to defend the city of 's-Hertogenbosch, but they also allowed you to control the city; to decide who was allowed to enter the city or not and to collect tolls. Over the years, the fortifications were adapted to the demands of time and the need for the walls, think of the development of the cannon.

When Napoleon joined the Netherlands to France in 1810, the fortress was no longer of any significance and in 1874, the fortress of 's-Hertogenbosch officially came to an end. As a new means of defence, we had the New Dutch Waterline in the Netherlands. The fortresses in the Netherlands could therefore be demolished. In 's-Hertogenbosch, the plan was to tear down all the walls and build outside the city limits, there would also be more space for industry. However, 's-Hertogenbosch had one problem: water. The city regularly flooded, so when that happened, the people of 's-Hertogenbosch had to take a rowing boat to do their shopping and go to St. John's for the church service. The solution was at hand: 's-Hertogenbosch started to polder. In addition to the poldering, the embankment was lowered, which of course could not be completely demolished because of the water. Together, this ensured that the city remained dry and a start could be made on enlarging the city. Parts of the fortification wall were broken down and new quarters were built in its place so that the city could expand further.

In recent years, 's-Hertogenbosch has done its best to restore the city's ramparts and bastions. If you follow the old fortification wall, you will make a nice tour around the centre of 's-Hertogenbosch, you will walk over the fortification wall on the Hekellaan and the Zuidwal. Along the Dommel river you will arrive at the Zuid-Willemsvaart canal, where you will end your tour. On the way, you will come across the following.

Bastion Oranje

Bastion Oranje was built in 1634 to offer resistance should the Spaniards want to recapture the city. You can walk over the bastion and then you have a great view of Het Bossche Broek, the area that used to be flooded. Now it is a nature reserve where you can walk and cycle and see various birds, pheasants and deer.
Here you will also find the Bastionder, which is an information centre where you can take a guided tour about the history of the fortifications. In the Bastionder, you can also see the Boze Griet (evil bitch) and part of the original old fortress wall.

The Citadel

The actual name of De Citadel is Fort Willem Maria. This used to be the place where the people of Bosschen were kept in check. They also called it 'the papenbril'. It also served as a prison, barracks and was the military court. When Napoleon was in power in the Netherlands, people were even executed here. Now the BHIC, the former national archive, is located here. You can take a quiet walk here and admire the buildings and cannons.

Near De Citadel is Het Kruithuis, which used to be, as the name suggests, the place where gunpowder was stored. What is special is that this is the last remaining Kruithuis from the Eighty Years' War. A unique place which was later used as a storage room, classroom and rehearsal room for an orchestra, among other things. Now the Kruithuis is being rebuilt and the Fortress and Water Museum is coming into being.

If you would like to see the fortress from the water, there are various options for guided tours of the inner city and the city walls by boat. All tours are accompanied by a guide who can tell you everything about the fortified city of 's-Hertogenbosch and answer all your questions.

If you want to experience more of the fortified city outside the centre of 's-Hertogenbosch, you could take a look at:

Fort Orthen

The fortress had to defend the city against attacks from the north, but never saw much action. The fort has been restored and now artists work there in their studios. And if you're on a bike anyway, you can cycle through nature reserve De Heinis. This area is situated on and around a dike that was built in the 14th century to protect the city from the water.

Fort Crèvecoeur

This fort is located at the mouth of the river De Dieze in the Maas. This fort has seen a lot of violence and has regularly changed hands. The name comes from the Spanish commander Hautepenne who died here. The Spaniards called it Hartepijn, and in French it is Crèvecoeur. From this spot, shipping was controlled and trade was severely hampered, so that may also be a reference to the name Hartepijn. In 1944, during the liberation of 's-Hertogenbosch, the fort was heavily damaged and unfortunately it is still in this state. The fort itself cannot be visited; the Corps of Engineers uses this terrain for training purposes, but the spot and the cycle trip towards it are certainly worthwhile.

The Pettelaarse Schans

This island with five points is situated in the middle of the Zuiderplas in the district 's-Hertogenbosch Zuid. There was a lot of fighting here and an impressive fort. This was destroyed by the inhabitants of Bosschen to ensure that the French did not get their hands on it. Now you can walk here and it is the location of the festivals in 's-Hertogenbosch, for example the Liberation Festival on 5 May.

If you are interested in living in the beautiful city of 's-Hertogenbosch, contact our estate agent in Den Bosch!

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