Amersfoort is a city and municipality in the east of the Dutch
province of Utrecht in the center of the country. The municipality
of Amersfoort has 157,521 inhabitants (1 August 2020, source: CBS)
who are called Amersfoorters. It is the second largest city in the
province of Utrecht and the fifteenth in the Netherlands in
population. In addition to the eponymous main town, the municipality
of Amersfoort consists of the much smaller centers of Hoogland and
Amersfoort is a growth city and economically fulfills a regional function with a strongly grown business, has one of the largest railway junctions in the Netherlands and is an important garrison city. The city center has a medieval character with canals.
The city of Amersfoort owes its origin and name to a ford or ford in the river Eem (formerly: Amer). The Eem starts where the Lunterse Beek (Heiligenbergerbeek) and the Barneveldse Beek (Flierbeek), which drained water from the Gelderse Vallei, converge in a lowland between the Amersfoortse Berg and the higher area north of Amersfoort (Hoogland). At that ford, the Eem was crossed by trade routes that ran from Utrecht to the east and north.
Inhabitation in Amersfoort and the surrounding area goes back a long
way in time. Hunters and gatherers traveled through the region as
far back as the Mesolithic. During archaeological research the
remains of hunting camps have been found. The region must also have
lived in the Neolithic period; Traces of habitation have not been
found to date, but burial mounds with finds from this period, such
as bell beakers. Burial mounds are also known from the Bronze Age
and Iron Age, such as at the Galgenberg, De Vlasakkers and the
Leusderheide. Some of this has already been investigated in the 19th
century. Inhabitation from the Bronze Age and Iron Age has been
found at various excavations, including in the area of the
Schammer (Leusden) and Wieken Vinkenhoef (Amersfoort).
The Romans never occupied and inhabited the region permanently, but it is certain that there were contacts and occasional visits. A Roman bowl - found in a burial field in Amersfoort-Noord - indicates this.
The first mention of Amersfoort dates from 1028. It must have been a peasant settlement at the time. The strategic location prompted the bishop of Utrecht to build one of his courtyards, from which to develop the Gelderse Vallei. This episcopal court was probably founded in the first half of the 12th century on the site where the St. George Church now stands. Trade and industry revived.
The settlement received city rights on June 12, 1259 from the Utrecht bishop Hendrik van Vianden. In the deed granting city rights to Amersfoort, the town was described as an oppidum, which means that the city was fortified, probably by an earthen wall, possibly with gates. Towards the end of the 13th century, the first stone wall was built, measuring 1,550 meters in length and surrounded by a moat. This first city wall is still clearly visible on the map of the center of Amersfoort.
In 1340 there was a major city fire, in which about half of the buildings were destroyed or damaged. The construction of a new wall (completed around 1450) with a total length of 2,850 meters was started around 1380, which tripled the surface of the walled city. A number of gates were built in this wall that can be admired to this day, such as the Koppelpoort and the Monnikendam. Little has been preserved of the first wall, only the strongly restored Kamperbinnenpoort remains. Nevertheless, the course of the first wall is still intact; the Muurhuizen follow the route of the wall and make use of its foundation. After miracles around a statue of the Virgin Mary, the so-called Miracle of Amersfoort, Amersfoort gained great importance as a place of pilgrimage in the Middle Ages, as a result of which the economy flourished and from 1444 the Onze-Lieve-Vrouwetoren could be built.
The city suffered a lot from acts of war in the 16th century. It was occupied by the states in 1572 and by the Spanish in 1573. In 1579 Amersfoort was recaptured by Jan VI of Nassau-Dillenburg, after which in 1579 there was forced affiliation with the Union of Utrecht. In 1629 Amersfoort was conquered by Ernesto Montecuccoli during his invasion of the Veluwe. The purpose of this invasion and the capture of Amersfoort was to cause panic in the Republic, forcing Frederik Hendrik van Oranje to give up the Siege of 's-Hertogenbosch. This was in vain as the Spanish Imperial army had to withdraw after the unexpected capture of Wesel.
The economy deteriorated since the 16th century, partly due to poorer navigability of the Eem. The population growth stagnated and at the beginning of the 19th century Amersfoort had only 8,000 people. Around 1850 the inhabitants demolished large parts of the ramparts and gates. This provided work for the poor and the stones were useful for streets, squares and roads. The intervention of King Willem II prevented the demolition of the Koppelpoort, Monnikendam, Kamperbinnenpoort and a remnant of the city wall.
At the beginning of the 18th century, the city became a center of the Old Catholic Church, through the establishment of the refractory priests of the so-called Old Episcopal Clerezij. The city then retained a predominantly non-Catholic signature, partly due to the settlement of many professional soldiers after 1870.
The arrival of the railways, in 1863 the line Utrecht - Zwolle
and more than ten years later the connection Amsterdam - Apeldoorn,
awakened the city from its 19th century sleep. Amersfoort became an
important junction and has remained so until today.
Around 1870 Amersfoort was designated by the government as a garrison town, partly because of its central location on railways and near heathland areas that could serve as training grounds, such as De Vlasakkers and the Leusderheide. In the Fortress Act of 1874, the city was given a major military role as a result of the focus of the national defense on the New Dutch Waterline, with the Grebbelinie as an outpost. Large barracks were built: in 1883 on the Heiligenbergerweg the Willem III barracks for the artillery and cavalry with horse stables on the Beestenmarkt and in 1889 on the Leusderweg the Juliana van Stolberg barracks for the infantry. This provided permanent work and income for the city.
Because of all these new impulses for the economy, the number of inhabitants increased rapidly and at the end of the 19th century Amersfoort had more than 18,000 inhabitants, of which 1,500 military personnel. Due to the large railway yard and the establishment of the wagon workshop in 1904, many families found work at the railway. In the flat area directly north of the railway in a westerly direction, an elongated residential area called the Soesterkwartier was created and a spacious villa park for the better-off was built against the slopes directly south of the railway: the Bergkwartier.
As elsewhere in the Netherlands, the Jewish community in Amersfoort suffered greatly from the Holocaust. Of the more than 630 Jews from Amersfoort, 353 died during this war. Most of them died in Auschwitz or Sobibór. A large part of the Jews who had not perished owed this to the help of fellow citizens; many went into hiding in Amersfoort and the surrounding area during the war. The material damage as a result of the war was limited in this city. The old center was spared.
During the mobilization in preparation for the war, various military camps were set up in Amersfoort and the surrounding area in 1938: the Prins Bernhard barracks and the camps Bokkeduinen, Waterloo (Lisiduna), Amsvorde, Boskamp (later PDA / Kamp Amersfoort) and Zonnebloemstraat (at the end of the current Noordewierweg). In May 1940, at the start of the Second World War, all 43,000 residents had to be evacuated because of the expected fighting in and around Amersfoort, which was then the largest garrison city in the Netherlands. After four days they were able to return. The Germans established the Kamp Amersfoort concentration camp near Amersfoort.
In 1943, the Council of Resistance (RVV) was founded in Amersfoort by the Van Beek family, who lived at the current address Stationsstraat 28. On July 20, 1943, twenty members of the clandestine resistance group Intelligence Service Netherlands were executed; they were buried in the Jannetjesdal on the Leusderheide. On October 2, 1944, the occupiers held a raid, in which 5,000-6,000 Amersfoort men aged 17-40 were taken to build trenches along the IJssel in the vicinity of Dieren.
On February 2, 1945, eighteen young prisoners from Camp Amersfoort and two passers-by were shot at the Barchman Wuytierslaan. A memorial stone in the façade of the houses Barchman Wuytierslaan 40 and 42 commemorates this execution. The names of those killed are listed here. On 20 March 1945, ten random prisoners from the camp on the Appelweg were executed by way of reprisal for the liquidation of a Dutch member of the Sicherheitsdienst.
The Nazi German armed forces blew up bridges in and near the city on 16 and 17 April 1945, including the railway bridge at the Koppelpoort. Canadian troops liberated the city on May 7 and 8, 1945.
After the war
Until the Second World War, the expansion of the city was aimed at the west and south sides of the city, but in the 1960s and 1970s new neighborhoods were built on the east and north sides. This became possible because the water management of the lower soils on that side had been improved by the construction of the Valley Canal after 1935.
Until about 1970, however, there was little development. Subsequently, the military presence disappeared, except for the Bernhard barracks. As a result, the number of inhabitants even threatened to decline. With the annexation on January 1, 1974 of most of the then municipality of Hoogland, the territory of Amersfoort expanded considerably.
Towards the end of the 20th century, the city received a strong
boost thanks to its Growth City status. This led to the construction
of new Vinex and other neighborhoods, such as Kattenbroek, which
gained national fame due to its special architecture. During this
period, new companies also established themselves in Amersfoort.
Ultimately, after fierce political discussions, Amersfoort train
station got a new station building. At the same time, the area
around the station was redesigned, including medium-sized office
buildings. A consequence of the emergence of new residential areas
in the north of the city was the construction of a new train
station, namely Amersfoort Schothorst.
The new Vathorst district was built in 2001. This expansion of the city was towards the north, where Amersfoort had reached the edge of the A1 motorway. Vathorst is therefore built on the other side of the highway and tunnels, bridges and railways connect the district with the other districts. The construction of a third train station, Amersfoort Vathorst, was added to the realization of this district. Vathorst is built between existing and constructed water, which can be used for sailing and which should form an image of canals.
On December 15, 2019, the first and largest station in Amersfoort was officially named Amersfoort Central.
In terms of urban growth and design (construction), there have been no further ambitions until 2020 after Vathorst. In 2020, plans were approved by the municipality to tackle the existing city. For example, an old industrial estate, Hoef-West, will be repurposed into a work-living-recreation area with the new name Hoefkwartier. The Amersfoort Central station area will also be tackled by means of redevelopment and the construction of a bicycle tunnel under the station. This takes away the chaotic image of bicycles on the station square and makes the area around the station and station itself more attractive.
The first church in the area is that of Villa Lisiduna (now Oud-Leusden) southwest of the city. A church has stood on this site since 697, for a long time the parish church for the entire region, including Amersfoort. In 1826, the then church fell into disrepair and was demolished, but the tower has remained.
The city got its own churches in the 13th century. The first are the Chapel of the Holy Spirit (now Lutheran Church) and the Church of St. George. Amersfoort was a place of pilgrimage in the Middle Ages. The pilgrims came because of the so-called Miracle of Amersfoort, a statue of the Virgin Mary that was found under miraculous circumstances in 1444 and to which miracles were attributed. The pilgrims caused economic growth and with the proceeds from the pilgrimage the Onze Lieve Vrouwetoren (Lange Jan) was built. Because of this statue an ommegang is still held.
After the Reformation Amersfoort was a predominantly Protestant city. The connection with Old Catholicism was also strong, because in 1724 former pastor Cornelius Steenoven of the hidden church at 't Zand, St. Georgius, was ordained archbishop of Utrecht, but was later deposed and banned by the pope, which created the Old Catholic Church.
The Protestant character of the city was reinforced at the end of the 19th century after the arrival of large barracks, because professional soldiers were predominantly Protestants. With the closure of the barracks and the designation of Amersfoort as a growth city, the proportion of secularists in the city increased sharply in the 20th century. Yet there is still a clear Protestant signature, also because of the surrounding places that are predominantly Protestant and the proximity of the Veluwe Bible Belt. This signature is evidenced by a relatively large number of Protestant municipalities, and by the presence of a number of Protestant institutions, including the Evangelische Hogeschool, which deliberately maintain their relationship with Amersfoort. The main church in the center, St. Joris, is Protestant. The churches in Amersfoort have their own FM channel.
In 2010, the seven Roman Catholic parishes in Amersfoort, Hoogland and Hooglanderveen merged to form the Onze Lieve Vrouw of Amersfoort. In the same year the Protestant Congregation Amersfoort was created, a merger of the Reformed, Gereformeerde and Lutheran neighborhood congregations, as a result of the emergence of the Protestant Church in the Netherlands. From 1991 to 2017, the Stoutenburg estate housed an environmental monastery of the same name, founded by the Franciscan Guy Dilweg.
The synagogue on Drieringensteeg was founded in 1727, which still exists, although the interior was completely destroyed during the war. Sephardic as well as Ashkenazi Jews arrive. In 1941 the Jewish community had about 700 members. 333 people died. In 1943 the interior was demolished by order of the government. Half of the Jews fell prey to the Shoah (part of the Holocaust that involved the Jews).
In 2009 there is an active Orthodox Jewish community in Amersfoort. There are two rabbis living there, namely Rabbi Shimon Evers, and Rabbi Binyomin Jacobs. Both work for the Interprovincial Chief Rabbinate. Synagogue services are held at least once a week. The religious community organizes its own transport for a few children who go to the orthodox Jewish school Cheider in Amsterdam-Buitenveldert.
There are several mosques in Amersfoort. The largest are El Fath mosque in the Liendert district (Moroccan community), built in 2007 to a design by architect Gerard Rijnsdorp, and the Mevlana Mosque in the Kruiskamp district (Turkish community).
Cityscape and sights
Amersfoort has more than 400 national monuments and two cityscapes: State-protected face Amersfoort (city center) and State-protected face Amersfoort - Bergkwartier (residential area). The medieval city center is remarkably well preserved and has a canal system. The Onze Lieve Vrouwetoren (also called "Lange Jan" by the people of Amersfoort) is the most important eye-catcher. At 98 meters, it is the third highest church tower in the Netherlands. The associated church was lost in an explosion in 1787.
The Onze Lieve Vrouwetoren is the central point of the coordinate system of the National Triangle Measurement and was also the origin (x = 0 m, y = 0 m) until about 1970. It is therefore called the center of the Netherlands. This was made visible at the tower in 1996 by two metal strips, one of which indicates the x-axis and the other the y-axis. In the middle of the tower floor there is a mark that indicates the zero point. Around 1970, the origin moved outside the Netherlands for practical reasons so that the point now has exactly the coordinates x = 155,000 m, y = 463,000 m.
The city center has other churches worth seeing, such as the
Sint-Joriskerk aan de Hof and the Roman Catholic
Sint-Franciscus-Xaveriuskerk, designed by architect F. Wittenberg.
The Saint Aegten Chapel and the Old Catholic Church of St. Georgius
are also worth mentioning. The Elleboogkerk, a neoclassical church
from 1820, was destroyed in a fire on October 22, 2007. A complete
restoration was decided, which was completed in 2014.
An important non-religious sight is the city wall. The first city wall was built around 1300. The Plompetoren was part of the oldest wall. The prisoners used to be kept here. A new city wall was built between 1380 and 1451, which amply enclosed the city until the 19th century and which has been partly preserved. After the oldest city wall had lost its function, it was used to build houses, Muurhuizen. An example of such a Wall House is the Tinnenburg house. The city center also has a younger city wall.
The city also has a number of city gates, both land and water gates. The most special and best known is the Koppelpoort, which is both a land and water gate. There are also the Monnikendam (a water gate) and the Kamperbinnenpoort (a land gate).
Beer brewery De Drie Ringen is located in a former city farm and brews beer in a traditional way. Furthermore, the Hofje de Poth, one of the oldest courtyards in the country, and the Sint-Pietersgasthuis are noteworthy sights.
City walks are organized by the Guild Amersfoort and cruises in the Amersfoort canals by the Waterlijn Foundation.
Outside Amersfoort has been a zoo since 1948, the Amersfoort Animal Park, located in Bos Birkhoven, on the west side of the city. This zoo attracts approximately 750,000 visitors annually (2008), making it the 16th attraction in the Netherlands, based on visitor numbers.
Art in public space
In the municipality, various statues, sculptures and objects have been placed in the public space.
The historic city museum of Amersfoort is the Museum Flehite, where a picture of history is given. In the birthplace of Piet Mondrian is the Mondriaanhuis, "museum for Constructive and Concrete Art". The museum displays diverse work by Mondrian, including copies of his geometric-abstract work, the style Mondrian is known for. Work in that style by other artists is also shown. Another art museum is the Armando Museum, which, as the name suggests, mainly exhibits work by Armando. In 2007, a fire raged in the building in which the museum was located, the Elleboogkerk. After this, the work was exhibited at various locations. The three museums mentioned, together with Kunsthal KAdE, form the Amersfoort Foundation in C.
There are other museums in the city. For example, there is the Cavalry Museum, which is dedicated to the history of Dutch cavalry. The Zonnehof (also called the Rietveld Pavilion) is an exhibition space for various art forms. The former concentration camp Kamp Amersfoort nowadays also has a museum function. Two former museums are the Vindsel Museum In Natura (until 2011) and the Culinary Museum (until 2010, the collection has been added to the Special Collections of the University of Amsterdam).
Since 2008, the Eemland Library has been mapping authors of novels, poems, children's books and informative books in its field. This concerns writers published by regular publishers, via printing on demand or in-house. A list of writers in Amersfoort can be found on their page.
Amersfoort has one larger theater, the Flint, also a conference center, a few smaller ones plus two cinema centers with multiple screens and a pop stage (Fluor, until 2015 De Kelder). The catering industry has developed considerably since the 1970s, with the squares de Hof and the Lieve Vrouwekerkhof as the focal point. There are a number of annual music and theater festivals (see below). In addition, Proef Amersfoort (from 1996), a culinary event, takes place every year at the Hof. The Eemplein, including a Pathé cinema (8 halls), music school, library and catering establishments, was opened on 31 October 2012.
The Amersfoortse Kei has given the city and its inhabitants the
nicknames 'Keistad' and 'Keientrekkers'. The story of how this
boulder ended up in Amersfoort goes as follows: in 1661 the poet and
esquire Everard Meyster made a bet that he could get the people of
Amersfoort to drag a large granite boulder from the Utrechtse
Heuvelrug to the city. . Meyster was able to convince the people of
Amersfoort in exchange for beer and pretzels and with a sledge and
pulling power the boulder was dragged into the city, to the
Varkensmarkt, where the boulder was placed on a plinth. When the
Amersfoorters realized that Meyster had let them do a nonsensical
job, the boulder was buried in the ground. Meyster, who was afraid
that the annoyance of the population would affect him personally,
fled to Utrecht. He settled in a house he called De Krakeling, after
the pretzels he had promised the people of Amersfoort for hauling
the boulder. The building on the street called Achter Sint Pieter,
on the corner of the street that is now known as Keistraat, is named
after the Amersfoortse kei. In 1903, when the shame of the
Amersfoorters for the blunder of their ancestors had diminished, the
boulder was excavated. Since 1953, the boulder has been in its
current location: on the Stadsring, near the Arnhemsestraat.
Various television series were shot in Amersfoort. Most recently, the recordings of the Oogappels (2019-) series have been made at various locations in the city. The TV series Fort Alpha (1996-1997) and Rundfunk (2015-2016) were filmed in and around the Constantinianum, which was part of a monastery complex. Furthermore, recordings were made throughout the city, such as in the medieval city center of Amersfoort, the pre-war districts of Soesterkwartier and Nederbergkwartier and at Amersfoort station. The seasons 1, 2, 5 and 6 of the Spijkerhoek series (1989-1993) were previously recorded. For this, many outdoor shots were taken in the historic city center: the Appelmarkt, the Groenmarkt and nearby historic places in the city such as the Havik.
Amersfoort is the cradle of a number of traveling street theater festivals such as "Boulevard of broken dreams" and "De Parade", both conceived by Terts Brinkhoff. Started with Tractor Tour in 1973, Amersfoort was one of the first cities to have such an itinerant street theater festival. Later, La Strada festival, Festival Etcetera, Street Arts festival Spoffin (from 1981) and Theater Terras (from 1974) followed. Amersfoort also has a rich history in the field of music festivals. Since 1977, Amersfoort Jazz has been held annually in May, followed by Dias Latinos (from 1996 in August) and the Smartlappenfestival (from 2000 in April). The Highlands Blues Festival in Hoogland existed for five years (2008-2013) but had to stop due to poor visitor numbers (they had to contend with bad weather for several years). In the field of pop music we mention here, among others, The Torenfestival (later Torenpop) and Into the woods (electronic music in the forest Birkhoven). A special offshoot of the festival tree is the 'Peeking at the neighbors' concept, in which performances take place in living rooms throughout the city. In the summer such a festival takes place under the title 'Strolling in the gardens'. Besides Amersfoort this festival also takes place in Nieuwegein, Woerden, Zoetermeer, Utrecht, Gooise Meren, Haarlem and Zutphen. In 1982 and 2010 the Pink Saturday was held in Amersfoort.
Amersfoort was one of the most important garrison cities in the Netherlands from about 1860 to 1980. In 1939 even the largest. The growth came after a government decision around 1870 to expand Amersfoort due to its central location, the Dutch Waterline, the proximity of training grounds (Vlasakkers, Leusderheide) and the low price of land with barracks, especially the coat of arms of the Cavalry of the Royal Netherlands Army. A total of eight barracks were built and the Royal Netherlands Marechaussee also got a location there. In addition, another ten military or semi-military institutions were built (not including Camp Amersfoort). The military presence had a major influence on the growth of the city and its economic development.
The following barracks were located at some point in Amersfoort (including institutions that are no longer located in Amersfoort due to municipal boundary changes, but have always been subject to it militarily):
Juliana van Stolberg-, 1889-1978 (divided into the following
barracks, all located on the Leusderweg)
Willem Kazerne, 1889-1980 (main building now civilian homes)
Lodewijk Barracks, 1890-1980 (main building now civilian homes)
Hendrik Kazerne, 1892-1980, (main building now civilian homes)
Adolf Kazerne, 1891-1980, (main building now civilian homes)
Camp Bokkeduinen, Barracks II and III
Barrack camp "De Vlasakkers"
Prins Willem III or Cavalry Barracks, At the Heiligenbergerweg, 1883-1978
Bernhard Kazerne, formerly also known as "the OCC" (Cavalry Training Center), Barchman Wuytierslaan 198, 1939-present (see also organization of the Royal Netherlands Army)
Among the other military institutions the city has known include a number of military homes, a military hospital, an internment camp and a women's camp.
The run-down of military institutions began with the abolition of conscription. This was followed by a further reduction of the Dutch army due to the end of the Cold War. Partly as compensation for this considerable loss of jobs, Amersfoort was given the status of a growth core in 1978. Today only the Bernhard barracks of the barracks are still in operation. The Cavalry Museum is located on this barracks.
Amersfoort is located on a flat place in the valley of the Eem on the most north-eastern edge of the Utrechtse Heuvelrug and south of the higher-lying area of Hoogland. The city has a medieval core with canals and ramparts. The canals were preserved, but the ramparts were largely demolished in the 19th century and replaced by a park and canals. The current park on the old ramparts is often referred to as the Zocherplantsoen, because it was (partly) designed by Jan David Zocher.
From 1870 onwards, the city expanded strongly with the arrival of the railways and a number of barracks. Until the 1950s, however, all car traffic from the western Netherlands to the north and east of the country still went through the Langestraat right through the center. The southwestern canal was therefore filled in between 1956 and 1958 to make way for a ring road, called Stadsring since 1966.
In 1980, the city was granted Growth City status, partly as a result of which a number of surrounding municipalities were fully or partially annexed. These were:
Highland (main part) (1974)
Leusden (partly) and Stoutenburg Noord (1998)
Nijkerk (partly) Laakzone, incl. 'T Hammetje (1998)
Hoevelaken (partly) (in 1998 the hamlet of Vinkenhoef)
Bunschoten (partly) (1998)
Large new residential areas were built, such as (see also list further on in this article) Vathorst and Schothorst-Noord, both with their own station, and Zielhorst, Kattenbroek and Nieuwland. These strengthened the center function of the old city in no small measure, where there are many shops and restaurants. Significant business and office areas were also built (see list under Economy). The construction of the A28 (Utrecht-Zwolle) to the east of Amersfoort provided a further boost for growth. Where the A28 intersects the A1, the Hoevelaken junction was created. Amersfoort has almost reached the limits of its expansion possibilities.
Amersfoort is the regional center for Bunschoten, Spakenburg, Hoevelaken, Leusden, Soest and Baarn.
In 2006 Amersfoort won the title 'Greenest City in the Netherlands', which is awarded by Entente Florale. The city owes its title to Amersfoort's policy of preserving its nature. In September 2007 the city was named 'Greenest City in Europe' by the same organization. Amersfoort also has many city parks. The largest park is Park Schothorst, which is located north of the center. The park is rich in many types of nature. The slightly smaller Park Randenbroek south of the center also has many types of nature.