Visiting the City Hall, Middelburg, The Netherlands: Gothic splendour, begun in the 15th century
Late Medieval hub of an extraordinarily dynamic, merchant community
This excellent example of Late Gothic architecture is found in Middelburg, provincial capital of Zeeland, in The Netherlands. The building is the Old City Hall (Dutch: Stadhuis ), one of the Middelburg's principal landmarks and something of a symbol of the prosperity which the merchant classes brought to the city in the late Middle Ages.
The Old City Hall's architects were a number of the Keldermans family, who worked from 1452 until 1520. Statues of prominent 16th century Dutch people, counts and countesses, are displayed at regular intervals around the exterior of the building.
Attractive red and white shutters are actually indicative of a practical, late Medieval function: to be opened and closed daily because the windows were not originally filled with glass. The roof of the building is broken by 24, small dormer windows.
Some neo-Classical elements to the building were added in the 17th and 18th centuries.
The City Hall's prominent tower, the upper part of which is octagonal, dates from the early 16th century and is nicknamed 'Malle Betje' by local people. It contains a carillon, which sounds a moment after that of the Lange Jan tower in the city's Nieuwe Kerk.
Badly damaged in 1940, the building was restored. (If one pauses for reflection, one can only grimly marvel at the sheer recklessness of the fascist military machine in causing severe damage to such a priceless, architectural treasure. It must be remembered, however, that by the end of World War Two, not only the Axis powers had engaged in the saturation bombing of civilian targets.) Today, part of the edifice is used for exhibitions. Among items on display are Flemish tapestries. An American college also uses the building.
I think that Middelburg's Old City Hall is thus among the most impressive municipal buildings that I have seen. Its address is very typical: Markt 1 (1, Market Place).
Guided tours are sometimes available.
Also worth seeing
In Middelburg itself, its many noted buildings include: the Lange Jan tower at the Nieuwe Kerk; the octagonal Oostkerk.
Vlissingen (distance: 7.5 kilometres) has the fine Jacobskerk with a tall tower; a statue of Admiral De Ruyter overlooks the Scheldt estuary.
How to get there: Airlines flying to Amsterdam Airport from New York include Delta Airlines and KLM. The Dutch railroad company NS (Nederlandse Spoorwegen) maintains rail services from Amsterdam to Middelburg . Car rental is available at Amsterdam airport. Be advised that some facilities may be withdrawn, without notice. Please check with the airline or your travel agent for up to date information.
MJFenn is an independent travel writer based in Ontario, Canada.
Other of my hubpages may also be of interest
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- Visiting the Peace Palace, The Hague, The Netherlands: built on the eve of a huge conflagration
- Visiting Mamelis, The Netherlands: untypical hill country, and border complexities, too