Franeker, Netherlands


Franeker (Frisian: Frjentsjer) is a city and the capital of the municipality of Waadhoeke in the Dutch province of Friesland. It is located northeast of Harlingen, north of Bolsward and southwest of Leeuwarden, between Dongjum and Tzum. Franeker is one of the Frisian eleven cities and the Van Harinxma Canal flows through the city.

In 2020 the city had 12,760 inhabitants. The town also includes the hamlets Arkens, Doijum (partly), Kie, Kiesterzijl, Lutjelollum, Miedum (partly), Salverd and War. Due to its growth in the twentieth century it has absorbed several other hamlets; Vijfhuizen, (Oud) Sjaerdema and Zevenhuizen.



Franeker is said to have originated around 800 as a Carolingian castellum. The name is said to come from "Froon-acker", or "land of the lord / king"; the oldest street in the city is still called Froonacker. From the 11th century to the 16th century, Franeker developed into the administrative center of northern Westergo. Duke Albrecht of Saxony settled in Franeker in the 15th century. The town seemed to develop into the capital of Friesland, but was overshadowed by Leeuwarden.

On May 12, 1500, the city was besieged by an army of 16,000 disaffected Frisians during the siege of Franeker as a result of the high rent and taxes levied by Albrecht and his sons Hendrik and George van Saksen. Hendrik established his seat in the city of Franeker. The Frisians did nothing with the siege of the city because they were poorly trained and organized. Duke Albrecht of Saxony hastily assembled a large army to relieve Hendrik and the city of Franeker. Finally, on July 16, 1500, the Frisians were defeated and the city relieved. On March 26, 1501, Hendrik V of Saxony donated a considerable (200 tomorrow) piece of salt marsh land outside the dykes, called the Franekerlanden, to the city of Franeker.

When the Republic of the Seven United Netherlands revolted against Spain, Franeker chose the side of William of Orange early on. Franeker was awarded a university for this in 1585, the University of Franeker, the second oldest in the Netherlands after the University of Leiden. Four reasons were put forward: it was cheaper than studying in Leiden, the parents could pay more attention to the behavior of their children, it was good for the development of the population and the money that the students would spend remained within the province. At this "Franeker Academy", donated by the Frisian stadholder Willem Lodewijk van Nassau and opened on July 29, 1585, one could study theology, law, medicine, classical languages, philosophy and mathematics and physics. One of the students was Prince William IV.

The story goes that residents of Franeker tried to steal a church bell from Harlingen in the Middle Ages. Since then, the Franekers have been called bell thieves.


Franeker in the patriots time

In the 18th century the city fell into disrepair, but Franeker was still making its mark in patriot times. In September 1785, the university's bicentennial was celebrated. Princess Wilhelmina of Prussia took part in the festivities without her husband, who was faced with a loss of power and influence and wanted to give up all his powers: parade societies had been set up all over the country, the wearing of orange had been forbidden for a few weeks and in ' s-Gravenhage he had been removed from his military position. In May 1787, students and professors (such as Johan Valckenaer) were forbidden to participate in the exercises of the drill society. In addition, the States of Friesland issued a ban on the purchase of weapons at the end of May, with the result that the patriots felt their freedom was affected. Within a few days new government regulations would come into effect in Friesland, with stricter requirements for the council members. The States of Friesland were afraid of a repetition of what had happened in the city of Utrecht in August 1786: there the nationally assembled parade societies had put the princely members of the city government aside. A few weeks later, a Prussian invasion threatened and defense societies were immediately established in some places, because the province of Holland did not want to apologize for the detention of the princess, who had been brought to Goejanverwellesluis.

On August 19, 7,000 pounds of powder and weapons were transported to Franeker. On the 23rd, a new 6,000 pound transport was delivered. On the 27th, delegates from the Provincial Executive came to take a look and demanded the gun. They were chased out of the city. At the end of August 1787, a dozen rebellious Frisian States members, led by Court Lambertus van Beyma, withdrew to Franeker, after the Provincial States had forbidden any support to Holland (and the city of Utrecht). Franeker was put in a state of defense when there was a rumor that the cavalry and infantry from Leeuwarden was on the way. Harlingen had refused to cooperate and the supply of men, weapons and ammunition via Makkum was not a success. Discipline was hard to find, the drink flowed freely; popular support was not forthcoming.


As Prussian troops advanced further north, the desperate leaders left the city after the divine service on Sunday afternoon, September 23. The retreat was so messy and so hasty that they forgot to bring the extremely incriminating, signed declarators (documents). The leaders blamed each other and argued years later when they awaited their return to France.

The leaders fled to Amsterdam via Workum, where the Orangists were scared to death by robbing and shooting, via Lemmer or Stavoren. A few fled to Germany via Groningen or Ameland, such as Eise Eisinga. About twenty patriots from Franeker were imprisoned in the block house in Leeuwarden and sentenced. Eventually, a dozen patriots from Bolsward would also suffer, because the council of Bolsward was the only city in Friesland to have recognized the Pretense States. See also The Patriots Time in Bolsward.


19th and 20th century

In 1811 Napoleon closed the university. The successor to the Franeker Academy was the Rijksatheneum, which existed from 1815 to 1847, but - like its predecessor - eventually collapsed due to a lack of students. The collection of the university library, which contains many rare old books, was transferred to the Provincial Library in Leeuwarden.

Although the city no longer has a university, there are still occasional academic promotions. PhD students from the University of Groningen who obtain their PhD on a subject related to Friesland or who have a connection with Friesland, may defend their thesis in the Franeker Martinikerk.

In 1984 the municipalities of Franeker and Franekeradeel, as well as part of the municipality of Barradeel, were merged into the municipality of Franekeradeel. Due to repeated shortages in the municipal budget, the municipality of Franekeradeel was under guardianship of the province of Friesland until 2005.

Shortages are nowadays tried to minimize with several construction projects and the extraction of gas and salt from the earth in the municipality of Franekeradeel and the surrounding area. Due to the consequences of the salt and gas extraction, the soil of Franeker had already subsided by 20.5 cm in June 2007.

In 2008 Queen Beatrix and her family visited Franeker as part of Queen's Day 2008.