Monday, May 12, 2008

Holland: City Walk through Dordrecht

The walk begins at the VVV office and leads you through the 19th century circular expansion to the inner city, where you will come across scores of unusual things: poor-women's almshouses for example, that actually consist of four courtyards, the oldest authentic dwelling in the Netherlands and Father Time, with the hour-glass on his head. Or the little naked boy in the gable of an aristocratic house, the strikingly leaning tower of a house of God and the breathtaking river view with which you are rewarded as you walk unsuspectingly through a city gate.

With the painters of the Golden Age the view of Dordrecht was favourite. And the view of Dordrecht by the Dordrecht painter Aelbert Cuyp inspired the English painter William Turner to paint an almost identical town view. The walk takes about two hours. With a visit to monuments and museums along the route you can easily make it a complete day out. VVV and Secrets of Holland lead the way.

When we now cross Mazelaarsbrug, we are standing in front of the Grote of Onze Lieve Vrouwekerk [Great Church or Church of Our Lady]. Here we have a magnificent view of the more than 2 metres out of plumb leaning tower. At the foot is the "Rotterdamhuis". This house, which originally stood in Rotterdam and had to be removed, was taken apart brick for brick and built up again here.

Grote of Onze Lieve Vrouwekerk

The church and its tower have a rich history. It was founded, at least the chapel which preceded it was founded, in the year 1064. The building of the church began in the third quarter of the 12th century. There are reports of work on the tower in 1285. The church was burnt down completely in the great city fire in 1457 but the tower was largely saved. The rebuilding was soon begun.

According to the design the tower should have had a steeple, but this plan was later abandoned. This, entirely in stone vaulted cruciform basilica, was built in the Brabant Gothic style. The church has a triple-naved ship with side chapels, a transept and a choir aisle. In the Lady Choir, with 15th century stellar vault, a wall painting depicts the legend of St. Sura. This saint was said to have given the order to build the church. In the Lady Choir water colours of the vaulting rosettes are displayed.

The interior is well worth a visit. The 16th century choir stalls with Renaissance style wood carvings are renowned. Other special things are the Rococo pulpit with baptism screen in Baroque style (1756), the brass choir screen (completed in 1744), the organ (1671/1859) and a number of windows, interesting because of the depictions, including the St. Elizabeth's flood, the fire in the Grote Kerk and the 'Dordtse Synode'. In the shop in the church a brochure with a description of the church is on sale, in addition to a large number of souvenirs, picture postcards and books.

We walk via Pottenkade alongside the church.

We have now come to one of the gates which gave access to the city: de Groothoofdspoort [gate at the city's main jetty].


De Groothoofdspoort was originally built between 1440 and 1450. In 1617/1618 a new Renaissance gate was built around the old late Gothic gate. In the passageway through the gate, the vaulted roof is a reminder of the late Gothic construction. In 1692 the tower was replaced by a dome.

We are now standing on the "land side" of the gate and see the coat of arms of Dordrecht, held by two griffins. This is the work of Gillis Huppe.When we walk through the gate we are standing at the meeting point of three rivers: Oude Maas [Old Meuse], Noord and Merwede. Here we can enjoy the magnificent river view. We are also standing on a piece of historic ground. This was where the passengers whose destination was Dordrecht came ashore: Maximilian of Austria, the counts, stadholders of Holland, Philip II and many others.

On this "water side" of the gate we see the relief figure of the Virgin or patroness of the city of Dordrecht. She is seated in an enclosure (which symbolises her unmarried state on one hand and on the other hand refers to the impossibility of capturing the city of Dordrecht because it is surrounded by water), with the arms of Dordrecht in one hand and a palm branch in the other. Around her are shown the coats of arms of Dutch cities which stood in relation to Dordrecht.

We now walk to the left along the water. On our left we see a number of beautifully restored buildings. We cross the Damiatebrug. This double cast iron bridge was built to the design of the city master builder Itz. Enjoy the view of the Groothoofdspoort (right) and the harbour (left) with the Grote Kerk [Great Church] in the background. On the bridge we look back for a moment to the warehouses on Kuipershaven [Coopers harbour]. The most eye-catching building is no. 17-18 (anno 1658) with its neck-gable or spout-gable.

No comments: