Old town centres always have the remarkable Dutch facades that Amsterdam is so famous for. Gorcum as well has a vast collection and variety of these typical architectural house fronts and tops. Behind the staircases and clockforms is often a simple triangular roof with the typical Dutch red rooftiles. The listfacades often hav a flat roof on top of the house, though sometimes a roofchapel tells there is still a store on top.
Housinghas always been effected by possible floadings and even now-a-days one has to reckon with the inevitable. In Gorinchem's old town centre one has built new appartment complexes close to the riverside of the Linge, a small river that however is known for it's enormous water level differences. The result is visible: houses that stand in the water, but have lower parts that are consisting of strong windowless walls or with watertight window systems built in.
In medieval times floadings of the wide river Merwede had a disasterous effect on Gorinchem and surrounding area's. Dike breeches appeared regularly and it called for a stronger and better organisation to maintain a safe waterlevel and take care of proper measurements against the from time to time raging waters. Therefore organisations were summoned around the whole country. These so called "waterscapes" are still of vital importance to the Dutch society and form a counter gouvernement in many districts that are below or around sealevel. Main tasks is to maintain a safe waterlevel, fortify the waterworks and (now-a-days) watch over the environmental aspects of the surface water. The Gorinchem "waterscape" is one of the most important in the Netherlands as for it's central position in the main flows of the large rivers.
Gorinchem and it's sluzes and inlets near Dalem played an important role in the "Hollandsche Waterlinie" (Holland water front). this centuries old defense line of the provinces of Holland, were a last resource to keep enemies out, by inundating (setting under water) large area's from the Southersea (IJsselmeer) until the province of Zeeland. In this strategy the "Dalem peil" (peil = level) should be maintained high enough to suddenly fload the lands in front of the invaders. An old stone with inscription shows next to the Dalem gate, now-a-days how high this level was. The only time the "Hollandsche waterlinie" was used was in the disasteryear 1672, when Holland was at war with practically all other countries of Europe and Germans invaded from the East, the French from the South and the English threatened us from the northsea. By floading enormous parts of our own land, we kept the Germans and French out and a terrific battle at sea eventually turned the tide in favour of the young Republic by defeating a much larger fleet of English and French.
Water is in the Netherlands a key element in the landscape. With one third of our country being situated under sea level, it is of vital importnace that water is all seperate area's are maintained on a correct and safe level and above all ... behind the dikes. This is already done for centuries by creating artificial waterlevels within the many rivers, creeks, canals and ditches. Instruments are barrage dams, sluzes, dikes, windmills, "gemalen" (huge pumping installations) and many many other mechanisms. the Dutch became through the years masters in water engineering and have stayed on a top level in this fields. Gorinchem shows many signs of these waterworks as a town that is built on a place where three very different waterways join together. The sluzes between the Merwede river and the smaller Linge river are a good example. In between is Gorinchem, with it's harbour.
Fortus creantur fortibus : the strong create strong.
This text comes from Horatus' carmina : ‘Fortes creantur fortibus ac bonis’.
which means something like strong create but strong and good.
This maxim belonged to the knights of the house of Van Arkel. The house of Van Arkel reigned from 13th century up to 1412