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Visiting the most conspicuous landmark of Middelburg, The Netherlands: the Lange Jan tower

Updated on December 17, 2012
Flag of The Netherlands
Flag of The Netherlands | Source
The Lange Jan tower of the abbey complex, Middelburg
The Lange Jan tower of the abbey complex, Middelburg | Source
The Rouaansekaai with sailing boats in the foreground and the Lange Jan in the background
The Rouaansekaai with sailing boats in the foreground and the Lange Jan in the background | Source
1866 map of Middelburg municipality, Zeeland, The Netherlands
1866 map of Middelburg municipality, Zeeland, The Netherlands | Source

Standing tall

If the 'Lange Jan' has rivals for the prize of being the most famous landmark in Middelburg, The Netherlands, it is certainly the most conspicuous.

Some features

This remarkable 90.5 metre tower, the name of which means 'Tall Jan' in Dutch, has risen above the capital of Zeeland province for centuries. It belongs to the Nieuwe Kerk, sometimes known as the Abbey Complex (Dutch: abdijkomplex ), thus named for the former Abbey of Our Lady (Onze-Lieve-Vrouwe abdij ). The church itself has been Protestant for centuries, although the abbey dated originally from the 11th century. The Abbey Complex now includes provincial administrative offices and the Zeeland Museum (Dutch: Zeeuws Museum )(1).

The wooden top of the tower was firstly created in 1590 in Renaissance style. This, however, burned down and was replaced in 1712. Interestingly, the clock chimes are noted for being timed to strike the hour earlier than the bell in the Old City Hall in Middelburg (see below). Thus it almost seems that these two bell towers are in competition with one another!

Not all of The Netherlands is flat (a few of these hubpages have been written about Dutch Limburg province, which, in various localities is anything but flat!) However, it must be remembered that, particularly in a Dutch province such as Zeeland, which is very flat and parts of which consist of land reclaimed from the sea, then a monumental tower such as the 'Lange Jan' can certainly be seen from a very long distance indeed around Walcheren Island, where Middelburg is situated.

I went inside the church building, and, not unusually for Dutch churches, the interior was very light and airy, giving the feeling of religious cobwebs having been blown away! (It is hard to explain fully the light and airy feeling that the interior of this church building gives; it is the opposite of some church buildings which, while of great note architecturally, give the impression of being dark and mysterious.)

All rather subjective, maybe, but it is known that church buildings can play upon people's subjective impressions, in any case.


(1) I was particularly struck by a poignant exhibition in the Zeeland Museum which presented the events and consequences of the severe floods which affected Zeeland province in 1953.

Also worth seeing

In Middelburg itself, the Old City Hall (Dutch: Oud Stadhuis ) is a striking, Gothic building, dating from the 15th and 16th centuries.

Vlissingen (distance: 7.5 kilometres); the Sint Jacobskerk has a very tall tower of its own; a statue of 17th century Admiral de Ruyter stands at the sea front.


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 . There is car rental availability at Amsterdam airport. Be advised that some facilities may be withdrawn, without notice. For up to date information, please check with the airline or your travel agent.

MJFenn is an independent travel writer based in Ontario, Canada.

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