Wendy’s Wanderings; A Ramble around the Places of Interest in Dordrecht
The number of interesting buildings in Dordrecht is breathtaking, and a visit needs careful planning to make sure you obtain the most out of your visit. This week I am going to highlight just a few of the places I saw that should be on anyone’s agenda, and I will start off my mentioning the Hof (Court),mentioned last week and is still in existance today. It was here in 1572 during the Spanish rule, that the First Assembly of the Free States took place. All twelve cities of Holland, with the exception of Amsterdam, took part in a secret meeting and resolved to turn against the Spanish oppressors. They chose Prince William of Orange as their stadholder and together with the Union of Dordrecht (1575), a constitution was established to consider the beginning of the independent state of the Netherlands. In the State Hall (Statenzaal) a film by a first-class director can be seen, and features some well known Dutch actors, and can be seen in the actual place where the assembly took place.
Another must see is the Grote Kerk, the Great Church, officially called the Onze-Lieve-Vrouwe-Kerk (‘Our Dear Lady Church’), which now belongs to the Dutch Top 100 of UNESCO monuments and is probably the most iconic building and landmark in Dordrecht. The church was constructed between 1285 and 1470 and has a 65m tower with 67 bells. The heaviest bell weighs 9830 kilos, which makes it the heaviest bell in the Netherlands. The tower itself is actually slightly crooked, and just like the leaning Tower of Pisa, its crookedness is caused by the soft and swampy soil underneath the building. Watch out for the decorated carvings, the brass choir screen, the mahogany pulpit and the Mariakoor with its state vault, which is the oldest part of the church. If you enjoy churches then look out for The Augustijnenkerk (‘Church of the Augustins’) which was rebuilt in 1512 after a fire. In 1776 the façade was refashioned as a style known as Waterstaatsti, and is currently owned by the Dutch Reformed Church and includes the Augustinian Monastery. The Nieuwkerk (‘New Church’) or St Nicolaas Kerk was built in 1175 which is rather ironic considering it is the oldest building in Dordrecht.
Also, don’t miss The Munt van Holland (‘Mint of Holland’), built in 1367 and up to its closure in 1806 is where the coins of Holland and Zeeland were minted. The Holland coat of arms hangs above the entrance to the main building and today the lolland building houses a music school. In Dordrecht Museum,mentioned last week, you can see a portrait of the Master of the mint, painted by Samuel van Hoogstraten in 1674.
The ‘t Zeepaert (Spuiboulvard 300) is oldest house in Dordrecht is also one of the oldest in the Netherlands, built around 1495. It has the original decorative wall ties and cross windows and is made of the precious Namur stone. During its time it has been home a soap maker, a brewer and a number of merchants. As well as the original parts it has elements from various periods throughout history, and is now restored and used for conferences.
The original gate into Dordrecht is the The Groothoofdspoort (‘Big Head’s Gate’) and was, built in the 14th and 15th centuries. It is situated at the point where the rivers the Meuse, the Merwede, and the Rhine meet and is Europe’s busiest river junctions.
You are never far from a windmill in Holland and Dordrecht is no exception. There are many different types of windmills, including polder mills, grist mills, sawmills and mal mills and Kyck over den Dyck (‘View over the Dike’), the last windmill in Dordrecht, was built in 1612 and was used to produce malt and used by the brewers of Dordrecht. The mill now operates on a Saturday. This is a shop selling flour and biscuits and from its platform you have an excellent view, and is well worth the trek.
Between Bagijnhof and Vriesestraat there are a number of almshouses of the Regenten-of Lenghenhof. They were built from 1755 around several central courtyards for the poor women of Dordrecht and were governed by trustees. Today these cottages are occupied by both men and women and are well worth a visiting with their courtyards if ancient trees and water wells.
When you have had enough of sight seeing a visit to the excellent shipping area is a welcome break. Here you will find all the well-known retail chains as well as the specialty shops with some unique premises. There is also a weekly market on a Friday and Saturday at the Statenplein selling flowers, fresh fruit, vegetables and cheeses as well as specialist markets including a book, ceramic, antiques and a curio market held on specific dates in the Nieukerksplein, and do check for dates before your trip.
Another aspect of Dordrecht is the many events, including the Christmas market, and its legends and these I will tell you about next week.