Monday, May 12, 2008

Holland: City Walk through Leiden

In the young Rembrandt's footsteps

Rembrandt van Rijn was born in Leiden and lived here for the first 26 years of his life. They were important years; in school he came to know the Classical writers, he decided to become a painter and took an apprenticeship, first in Leiden, then in Amsterdam, and thereafter he established himself as an independent painter in Leiden. In his Leiden studio many masterpieces were created. Rembrandt and Leiden: a search for the roots of a great inhabitant.

The route starts at Leiden railway-station.

As you leave the station, walk straight ahead along the stationsweg and enter the Steenstraat. At the end of this street, walk along by the water, following the turning to the right. You are now walking along the Galgewater, where the historic harbour is situated. Following this road you will come to the one-time Stadstimmerwerf (the Town Carpenter's Yard), built in 1612.

Rembrandt, who lived on the opposite side of the water, undoubtedly admired this building, A housing complex for old people has now been established in the Stadstimmerwerf. You will find an reconstruction of Rembrandt's studio in the former painter's workshop.

Proceed along the Groenhazengracht. At the end, turn right onto the Rapenburg.

It was during Rembrandt's lifetime that the Rapenburg developed from being a rather quiet canal to one of the most distinguished canals in the whole of Leiden.

As you continue your walk along the Rapenburg you will come to the site of the Academiegebouw (the Senate Building), principal seat of the University since 1581.

Rembrandt was registered at the University in 1620. It is not certain whether he did this himself or whether the headmaster of the Latijnse School (the Latin School) he attended did it on his behalf. Whatever the case, it was a provisional registration as Rembrandt was only 14 years of age at the time and the customary age for a first-year student was 17 to 18 years. Such an early registration was by no means unusual, however Rembrandt never attended one single lecture; his vocation as artist meant he never even completed his grammar school education.

Proceed across the bridge, the Nonnenburg, and walk straight ahead along the Kloksteeg. You will find yourself on a square called the Pieterskerkplein. Walking around the church to the left you will come to the entrance of the Pierterskerk on the north side. Cross the foot bridge and proceed diagonally to your left to the Municipal Museum De Lakenhal (the Cloth-hall).

The Lakenhal was built during the years 1638-1640. The products of Leiden?s flourishing textile industry were examined and sold here. In 1874 the municipal museum was established in De Lakenhal. The museum possesses an historically important painting of Rembrandt's from 1626, paintings of his teachers Swanenburg and Lastman, and, in addition, paintains of Lievens and other of Rembrandt's contemporaries.

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