Historical Leiden, Leiden
This rather magnificently imposing building is the former Lutheran orphanage, built in 1583. As you can guess from the size of the building it was designed to house hundreds of children who came from all over the Netherlands and cities as far afield as Achen and Liege.
Boys and girls were given basic schooling up to the age of twelve. The boys were then taught trade skills whilst the girls were trained in domestic tasks such as cooking and needlework. Pic #3 shows statues of a boy and a girl above the main gate, these are affectionately known locally as "Kaatje and Kootje".
It remained an orphanage until 1961 by which time the building no longer suited modern ideas and is now home to the Childrens House charity and the Municipal Archaeology Centre.
Leiden's castle was originally constructed in the 11th century as a keep on top of a raised earthen mound (motte) and was intended as a place of safety both from attack and during flooding. However as the city grew around it its defensive position became redundant and it was too small to provide refuge the whole population during flooding.
The Burcht was acquired by the city in 1651 for use as a public water tower, feeding into the city squares and is now a public park.
By all accounts the view from the restored ramparts is well worth the climb up the steps but it had started to rain again and so I passed on that one.
Leiden's Renaissance Town Hall was built around 1600 by the Harlem architect and stonemason, appropriately Lieven de Key. It was devastated by fire in 1929 but fortunately the original facade was saved and because the fire also destroyed many of the adjacent buildings this allowed the Town Hall Square to be constructed during the subsequent rebuilding (pic #3).
On either side of the front door are two metal buttons, originally notches, which define the "Rhenish Rod" - a measure used in bulb cultivation. This is 12 feet (144 inches) or after metrication 3.767358 metres.
Leiden is the city where the famous Dutch painter Rembrandt van Rijn was born on July 15, 1606. His parents managed the De Rijn windmill at the Galgewater and they live in a house at the Weddesteeg. He was the nineth child of miller Harmen Gerritsz and his wife Neeltje van Zuytbrouck, daughter of a baker.
Rembrandt went to the Latin school at Leiden and was enlisted at the Leiden University in 1620. But Rembrandt was interested in painting and from 1619 he was learning that at the Leiden painter Jacob van Swanenburgh.
In 1625 Rembrandt moved to Amsterdam.
Nowadays the Weddesteeg alley is transformed. The old birth place house is replaced and opposite the house a small Rembrandt square has been constructed.
De Burcht is a fortification on top of a man-made hill. These higher grounds were made by the settlers who started a settlement at the Rhine river in the tenth century.
A Century later the hill was 9 meters over the surrounding buildings and the first castle became the residence of Ada van Holland.
In the 13th century the fortification was rebuild, but became superfluous as the city grew more and more and new outer canals and defence works were made.
In 1651 the Burcht became the property of the city counsel and first served as a water tower.
Nowadyas the Burcht is a public part with a lovely onto the old center of Leiden.
The Hooglandse Kerkgracht is one of Leiden's most attractive wider streets. The original canal was filled up in 1607 in a time that Leiden was facing better economic times.
In 2004 all the centre parking spots were transformed in to a nice walking space, creating a beautiful wide street.
The Heilige Geest- of Armen- Wees- en Kinderhuis (The Holy Ghost or Orphanage and Poor Children home) is a National Monument.
Original the building dating from 1404 was a womans hospital and in 1583 was transformed into an Orphanage.
The later rear part dates from 1656. A fire in 1768 destroyed the building partly. The extension to the Oude Rijn canal was completed in 1774 and renovated in 1882. The gate at the canal dates from 1607.
The orphanage was in service till 1961.
Since May 2010 the Leiden Archeological Center is housed in a part of the building. In the other part the Defence for Children is housed.
From time to time there are exhibitions.
The Graan-Magazyn Voor den Armen (Grain Warehouse for the Poor) is a National monument. It was build in 1754 next to the Huiszittenhuis, a building where free food was given to the poor people.
Even today part of the building is in use by social organistations.
The City Hall of Leiden nowadays has two faces. The oldest part of the building is the outer wall at the Breestraat. The newest part of 1932 is located at the side of the Vismarkt. The new City Hall had to be build after the city fire of February 12, 1929. The whole area was redesigned and room was made for a City Hall square. At the entrance of the building are two irons knobs, defining the distance of 1 Rijnlandse roede, one of the oldest Dutch distance measuring units.
De Koornbrug bridge is probably the best-known bridge at Leiden. It was build in 1642 and it was the location where wheat was traded. Trading at the bridges and quays was common at Leiden as most merchandise was transported over the canals to the center of the town. Leiden lacked squares as a trading places. In the 17th century the bridge was renewed and 200 years later the bridge was covered to protect the merchandise.
In 2007 the bridge was renovated due to rotten wooden parts.
The construction is a National Monument.
De Waag of Leiden was the building were goods were weighted and fair trade was guaranteed by certified weights controlled by the local authorities.
The building dates from 1657 and was designed by Pieter Post. The stone building replaced an earlier woorden Waag that was in service for some 200 years.
Merchandise was mainly transported by ship and hosted by a crane at the quay.
De Waag is a National Monument.
Do not limit your Leiden exploration to the major streets and canals.
The smaller streets contain many hidden gems and than there are the many inner courts that are open to the public, but you have to open doors that look private.
The Morspoort city gate is the West gate to Leiden's old city center, one of eight gates the city had in the past.
This gate dates from 1669 and was designed by Willem van der Helm.
The gate building also was in use as a prison for long times.
The name Mors comes from the Morisch, the more meadow area at the West side of Leiden.
Leiden has a compact and very walkable historical centre with much architectural interest.
It's well worth spending a couple of hours just wandering around. You'll find many of the oldest buildings near the huge, Gothic Pietreskerk, now deconsecrated and used for events and conferences. It dating from the 1100s and thus is the historical heart of the original Medieval city. Its interior is, in common with many Dutch churches (and thanks to the Iconoclasm) fairly plain. You can see inside Pieterskerk from 1.30pm to 4pm, although I missed doing so.
Enjoy the huge variation in gables...they are indicative not only of the time the house was built but also of the wealth of the owner. The more elaborate the gable and house exterior, the more wealth and power the owner demonstrated.
Keep a look out for the 'namestones' on the oldest buildings: carvings which identified them (and their owners) in times when the vast majority of the population was illiterate.
The Burcht is what little remains of Leiden's early Medieval castle.
The castle was first built in the 1000s in classic 'motte-and-bailey' style: a man-made mound topped by a defensive wall (originally wooden) with a keep (defensive tower, also originally wooden) inside. The bailey was a larger area at the base of the motte, also enclosed by defensive walls and used both for other buildings (such as workshops) and as a place of refuge against attack for townsfolk living outside the castle complex.
By 1203 the original wooden castle had been rebuilt in stone and, in that year, had to be rebuilt in stone again after the castle was attacked. A further attack in 1204 resulted in the rebuilding in brick.
By the late 1200s building close to the castle meant it was no longer useful as a defensive structure. The walls and buildings were gradually dismantled and their bricks and stones re-used for other buildings. The motte remained, however, and was used for a water tower in the 1600s.
The existing walls on the top of the motte date from the 1600s, no earlier. There is little to see inside but it is well worth climbing the steps up to the motte (and then up to the walls. There are excellent views over the city.
Free to enter, open during daylight hours.