Water as a defence
In the 16 th century, the Duke of Alva, while subjecting the rebellious
Netherlands to the Spanish rule, already complained that with every
town or village to be conquered there was water to be crossed. For
the defence of the Netherlands against foreign invaders, water became
Dutch waterline fortifications
In the beginning of the 17 th century the Dutch Waterline, a system
of inundations was set up as a defence against the Spaniards. A
unique defence system, born out of lack of time and money. A small
town in the middle of the country, part of the Dutch waterline was
given new fortifications in 1673. By building a sluice for inundation
under the town hall angry farmers could be prevented from obstructing
Simon Stevin, the mathematician who had fled from the southern
Netherlands was the theoretician of the Oud Nederlandse Stelsel(Old
Dutch System), the defence system consisting of a system of pentagonal
earth bastions and ravelines (without casemates) stimulated by the
great Spanish sieges and based on mathematical principles.
A perfect example of this, situated strategically on a sandridge
in marshland, can be foud in the northern part of Holland. In a
riverside town in the southern part of Holland, a garrison town
built along Renaissance principles, and, in 1586 provided with a
wall shaped like a seven-pointed star, many traces of the fortification
period are still to be seen.
Naarden, struck by the Spaniards in 1572, is according to Menno
van Coehoorn’s fortification-building ideas, enclosed by the
most perfect defences of the Nieuw Nederlandse Stelsel (New Dutch
System) including larger bastions, improved storage of ammunition
, accommodation for soldiers and closing of outworks. Enemy armies
on their way to Amsterdam could not go round Naarden. A walk along
the Naarden bastions will teach you more about the relationship
between mathematical fortresss-building and water. One can also
see how military constructions have been given a modern function.
Some other fortified towns in the Netherlands show you that defence
walls could be used for housing. The poor inhabitants were thus
spared the building of a wall.
In Naarden’s Fortress Museum you have a unique chance to
see the entrails of a bastion, the listening-corridor, poterne,
cannon-cellars and embrasures.
House of Orange
In the river landscape of central Holland lies a pictoresque little
fortified town with old ties with the Dutch royal family.
In the New Holland Waterline you will find a fortress which has
besides great cultural-historical value also important nature values.
Fortress Ring of Amsterdam
In the 16-th century Amsterdam became the most important city of
the province of Holland and was called the navel of the world. That’s
why the city had to be well protected, but it was not until 1799
that there was a closed line of defences round the city.
At the outbreak of the First World War de Stelling van Amsterdam
(the Fortress Ring of Amsterdam) was as good as finished: 30 concrete
fortresses and 2 defensive works in a radius of 15 kilometres round
Amsterdam with a total length of 135 kilometres.
In 1996 the Stelling van Amsterdam, Holland’s national reduit,
was added to the Unesco World Heritage list. How such an old fortress
was adapted to the demands of modern times is something you can
observe yourself by visiting one of the Stelling van Amsterdam fortresses.
The HollandThe RideWay programme offers you a good introduction
to a defence system which is unique in the world.