Groningen, Netherlands


Groningen (Gronings: Grunn, Grunnen or Stad, Frisian: Grins), is the capital of the Dutch province of Groningen, and the largest core in the municipality of the same name. The place is referred to as City in the provinces of Groningen and Drenthe. In 2020 the city of Groningen had 203,105 inhabitants. It is the largest city in the northern Netherlands. Groningen is part of the Groningen-Assen Region partnership.

No written city rights are known for Groningen. Due to its relatively isolated location in relation to the successive factual centers of power (Utrecht, The Hague and Brussels), the city was historically dependent on itself and its immediate surroundings. As a Hanseatic city, Groningen was part of the North German trade network, but it later became mainly a regional market center. After this, Groningen gradually developed into an influential center of power. The city could actually be considered a city-state during the 15th century, at the height of its power. Since the Republic, Groningen was nominally part of the Netherlands, but until the French era, Groningen actually remained an autonomous city, ruling most of the province. After the French period, the city lost its predominant position in the province.

Groningen developed from a municipality with 23,000 inhabitants in 1795 to a municipality with about 100,000 inhabitants in 1930. At the end of the Second World War, there was fighting in Groningen, and during the liberation in 1945 a large part of the city center went up in flames . Nowadays Groningen is a city with varied trade and industry. Groningen is also a student city with over 60,000 students, of whom almost 35,000 live in the city (2018).



The origin and meaning of the name Groningen and the older variant 'Groeningen' are not certain. Poets tried to link it to a folk tale about exiles from Troy who, under the guidance of a certain mythical figure Gruno (or Grunius, Gryns or Grunus), is said to have founded a settlement here with Phrygians from Germany in 453 BC. (according to another tradition in 130 BC) and built a castle on the Hunze that he called 'Grunoburg'. That castle would later have been destroyed by the Vikings and later the Saint Walburg Church might have been built on its foundations. However, there is no evidence whatsoever for these stories.

Another theory holds that the name Groningen is derived from the husband's name 'Groni'. Reference is made here to the occurrence of the early game modes 'Groningi' and 'Groninga' in the 11th century and the old name 'Gronesbeke' for a small water near the Hunze (northern border of Everswolde (Zuidlaarderveen). people of Groni '.

Yet another theory about the origin is that the old name Groeningen is derived from 'Groen-ge'; "green field (s)". 'green' would come from 'cruon' and an eng (or engge) is an old name for an open field, which was often hilly in the Saxon part of the Netherlands and Germany. In the coat of arms of Groningen (and the flag) this would be reflected in the green stripe; a green strip of land; between the Lauwers, the Ems and the Wadden Sea.

The Groningen dialect name Grunnen has the same etymology. Grun, from the older gruun and -inge was translated into -en or -ens, just like in the name Kantens, which was probably Kantinge in the past and which still happens today in Groningen, for example Thesinge becomes Taisen. As with most Groningen words that end in -en, the -e is also dropped here, so that you get the pronunciation grunn. Because it is Groningen, it could also have been Grunnens in Groningen, as in Kantens, which also explains the Frisian name Grins (compare also Harlingen - Harns).

In the province of Groningen the place is traditionally also called "City". Groningen has been the largest city in the surrounding area for centuries, and for centuries the only place with city rights in the entire region next to Appingedam. Outside of that, this name is also used, although most Frisians will say Grins. Groningen is also referred to as 'City' in the top of Drenthe. In the Middle Ages, the Latin name Groninga was used on cards and coins. Groningen was called Groningue at the time of the French occupation. The inhabitants themselves call themselves "Stadjers" or "Stadjeder". The city is also called the "metropolis of the North". City residents affectionately call her "Groot Loug", that is to say "Groot Dorp". Another nickname of Groningen is Martinistad, referring to the Martini Tower. The city of Groningen themselves have the nickname: molle beans.



Groningen originated on the northernmost spur of the Hondsrug. The oldest known written mention, Villa Cruoninga, dates back to 1040, but it is certain that the current city was an inhabited place long before that. The oldest archaeological finds within the area of ​​the present city have been dated using the C14 method to approximately 3950–3720 BC. From 300 BC. Three or four wandering yards (comb fields) were found along the through route from Drenthe to the north: the Herestraat and Oude Boteringestraat. Continuous habitation can be established from the third century. Groningen probably originated from two different centers that arose around 700; one was around the current Martinikerkhof and the other between the Zuiderdiep and the Verbindingskanaal. The city was originally an esdorp with a brink (the Grote Markt) and two ash trees on the north and south sides.


Middle Ages

The written history of Groningen begins in 1040 with the donation by the German emperor of goods and rights (the domains) to the church of Utrecht. Parts of the royal property had already been donated to Werden Monastery. Presumably shortly before this deed, at the instigation of the bishop, the construction of a partial land defense around his properties was already started, which also made Groningen a city in terms of appearance. The bishop was probably also responsible for many planning developments in the 11th and 12th centuries, such as the construction of a pattern of cobbled streets with verge ditches that, in the fashion of the time, seems to be based on a Roman castellum and the construction of the Saint Walburg church. around 1100 as its own private chapel.


Groningen must already have had a certain market function for the immediate vicinity in 1040. The oldest church, the Maartenskerk, was founded around 800 according to archaeological research. Part of the donation was also the right to coin, which the Utrecht bishop also used. Around the year 1000, the wooden St. Martin's Church may be replaced by a tuff stone after destruction by the Normans and around 1200 by the first phase of the current brick church.

The initially Drenthe esdorp became an important trading place in the Middle Ages. The location, on the border of Drenthe and Friesland, was of great value.

After 1040 a long period follows about which the sources remain silent when it comes to Groningen. In the 12th century, the southern settlement was probably abandoned in favor of the northern settlement. From 1227 onwards there is a fierce struggle between the bishop and some of the inhabitants of the city in the written sources. The bishop considered himself ruler, but the distance between Groningen and Utrecht makes it difficult for the bishop to actually exercise power in the city. Bishop Hartbert tries to solve this problem by dedicating the prefecture (viscountry) to his brother. However, by making the office hereditary, he immediately creates a problem for his successors. The prefect sets his own course, so that two parties develop in the city alongside the bishop: the followers of the prefect and the Stadjers who consider themselves capable of representing their own interests. In the 13th century, the prefect had several points of support outside the city on main roads across the Hunze, where he set up bailiffs or ministerials. In order to demonstrate their power, the Stadjers in the thirteenth century replaced their earthen weather on their own by a stone wall, which, like the predecessor, was probably not closed on the A side. The power of the bishop, and his prefect, is seriously affected in the Battle of Ane when episcopal troops, trying to put things right in Groningen, suffer an ignominious defeat. After that, Groningen will not care much about the bishop anymore. In the 14th century, all the prefect's strongholds were destroyed or bought up and demolished.

The growth from village to city in this period is evidenced by the foundation of a second parish around the Der Aa Church and the establishment of two monasteries, one of the Franciscans and one of the Dominicans. The oldest hospital, the Pelstergasthuis, also dates from this period; it is mentioned for the first time in a papal bull from 1267. Where the Academy Building now stands, two beguinages were founded in 1276 and 1284: the Lady Menolda Convent and the Lady Sywen Convent.

The petrification of the city also takes shape in houses, where the petrification often aims to make a house resilient. The oldest surviving buildings date from the thirteenth (Calmershuis, Hinckaertshuis) and fourteenth century. At the time, these residential towers rose up to 25 meters high.

Although there is no formal grant of city law, the city does consider itself a city. In the early fourteenth century, Bishop Guy of Avesnes also explicitly recognized the rights of the city.

In the late Middle Ages, the city was part of the Hanseatic League. However, the city's trade seems to have a mainly local function. Where in the thirteenth century merchants from Groningen can still be traced in distant regions, in the fourteenth century the city mainly became the marketplace for the surrounding, then Frisian Ommelanden. During this period, the city also sees itself as Frisian. In 1361 Groningen was therefore the meeting place of the Upstalsboom. Afterwards, nothing more will be heard from this general meeting of all Frisian areas.


Groningen at the height of its power

In the fifteenth century, Groningen experienced a period of great prosperity. Friesland has been the scene of the disputes between Schieringers and Vetkopers since the fourteenth century. In the neighboring East Frisia a similar battle takes place during this period, which is eventually won by the Cirksenas. As the largest city in the area, Groningen has considerable armed forces that can play a decisive role in local conflicts. Although the city itself is also a battleground of the conflicts between Schieringers and Vetkopers, after the kiss of Groningen, the city manages to establish itself as a pacifier of the area.


Within the current province, Oldambt becomes an area dependent on the city during this period. The Gorecht, the area south of the city, is leased from the bishop. Treaties are concluded or renewed with the Westerkwartier, Hunsingo and Fivelingo, which fix or strengthen the influence of the city. The city also concluded treaties about the Lauwers. In Kollum Groningen establishes a landlord, and in Oostergo Groningen is also seen as the only power that can provide peace. Leeuwarden accepts a Groningen garrison in 1492, until Albrecht van Saksen takes over in 1498. In Westergo, only Franeker refuses to accept the power of Groningen.

The city's prosperity is also evident from the construction of the current Martini Tower, which takes place during this period. The tower symbolizes the power that the Stadjers ascribe to themselves.

Within the Holy Roman Empire, Groningen never acquired the legal status of a "free city" like Frankfurt am Main. What happened was that the power of the distant Diocese of Utrecht declined and that the city took up the resulting power vacuum. Groningen placed without privilege a double-headed eagle as with the coat of arms of a free imperial city in the city's coat of arms.

The city had a new earthen wall built around the existing city wall around 1470, with which the Hunze and the Drentsche Aa were also drawn within the city walls. In 1473 she obtained staple rights, which meant that all goods from the Ommelanden had to be offered first in the city from now on, something that led to a lot of resistance, especially among the farmers.


Groningen during the Republic

Groningen eventually overplayed its hand in Friesland. The German emperor had offered Groningen the power of the nation of Friesland, but Groningen had rejected this as too expensive (the emperor demanded an annual fee). The emperor then offered it to Albrecht of Saxony, who accepted it. The partnership encompassed all of Friesland. In Albrecht's view, this meant not only the current province of Friesland, but also the Ommelanden, including the city.

The city was no match for the power of Albrecht and his son George. To save its body, the city submitted first to the Count of East Friesland and later to Charles of Gelre. Eventually, the city turned to Charles V and it was incorporated into the Burgundian Circle along with the Ommelanden.

After the outbreak of the uprising, the city chose Spain out of self-interest, but joined the Republic in 1594, at the time of the reduction of Groningen. Within the context of the Republic, however, the city remained an independent entity as a dominant factor within the region of Stad en Lande until the French era. In 1606 (I.B.M. Matthey estimate based on the number of fiscal hearths) about 16,600 people lived in the city, about 20,000 by 1620, and about 23,000 by 1700. There will then be about 96,000 people living in Stad en Lande as a whole.

Groningen got its university in 1614, first of all as a ministerial training. In the same period (probably based on an urban development plan by Johan Sems and Garwer Peters) plans for the construction of a new northern part of the city were drawn up, which doubled the size of the city. The orthogonal interpretation fitted in well with the medieval structure of Groningen, but construction only started in the 19th century. The walls of Fortress Groningen were also radically improved. The city thus got its characteristic structure with 17 workers.

This new fortress was fruitlessly besieged in the disaster year 1672 by the bishop of Münster, Bernhard von Galen. Every year on August 28, the city celebrates the victory over Bommen Berend (see Gronings Ontzet). In 1698 the fortress was reinforced with 'Nieuwe Werken', namely the Helpman Line, designed by Menno van Coehoorn.


After the Reformation, the extensive land holdings of the Groningen monasteries revert to the province. As the first member of Stad en Lande, the city manages to acquire land from that property in particular in the Bourtanger swamp. Administratively, these countries belong to the Oldambt, where the city is politically in charge. As a private owner and as a public authority, the city determines the method of extraction and imposes that peat may only be traded through the city. In 1637 the Winschoterdiep was constructed, with which the city managed to attract the entire peat trade in East Groningen. The channels along which the peat is transported are constructed and exploited by the city (the Stadskanaal). The peat trade and land ownership in the Peat Colonies provide a solid basis for Groningen's prosperity. The city also wanted to show its wealth and at the end of the eighteenth century organized a competition for a new town hall. Just after the competition was won by Jacob Otten Husly in 1774, peat extraction stagnated, which meant that it would take until 1817 before the town hall was completed in a reduced form.

In 1765, the Groote or gentlemen's society was founded, now the oldest associations in the city, together with the lodge L'Union Provinciale from 1772. In 1797 one of the first nursery schools for teachers was founded in Groningen by the Maatschappij tot Nut van 't Algemeen.


Nineteenth century

The special position of the city as Lord of large parts of the province came to an end in the French era. However, the French closed almost all universities in the Netherlands, but Groningen and Leiden were allowed to remain open.

After the French period, the city had to redefine its position. Formally, the city had lost its predominant position in the province, but the city properties, especially in the Peat Colonies, continued to contribute significantly to urban finances. The Stadskanaal was extended to Ter Apel. In the direction of Delfzijl, the connection was improved by the construction of the Eemskanaal, while the Hoornsediep was expanded into the Noord-Willemskanaal.

The explanation of the seventeenth century could have accommodated the growth of the population for two centuries, but nevertheless began to squeeze during the course of this century. Expansion outside the walls was not possible due to the military importance of the city as a fortress. After the Franco-Prussian War of 1870-1871 it became clear that fortresses like Groningen could no longer have military significance. The Fortress Act of 1874 therefore put an end to the Fortress Groningen. The Noorderplantsoen was created on the old walls and the Academic Hospital was established. Outside the old walls, new neighborhoods arose, first along the Hereweg, later also the Oosterpoort and on the north side. At the end of the 19th century, Mulock Houwer drew up a first urban expansion plan, which appeared in 1903 under the name Plan van Uitleg and formed the first impetus for the development of the city in the 20th century.


Twentieth century

In the twentieth century, Groningen continued to expand, not only in buildings, but also in surface area. The village Helpman was annexed by Groningen; until 1908 it belonged to the municipality of Haren. The municipalities of Hoogkerk and Noorddijk were added to Groningen in 1969. Groningen also becomes a red city in the twentieth century. In 1901, Eltjo Rugge is elected to the city council, he will remain on the council until 1946 and, as alderman, make a big mark on the development of the city. The Oosterpark district in particular is the product of this social-democratic municipal policy.



During the Second World War, a total of 3,300 inhabitants died, including 2,800 Jewish civilians. In 1940 the city had a thriving Jewish community of about 3,000 people, including 250 refugees from Germany. The first Groningen Jews - 600 men - were drafted into labor camps by the Germans from August 1942. These deportations continued until April 1943. Relatively few Groningen Jews went into hiding. A student committee helped Jewish children find hiding places. A department of the SD was established in the Scholtenhuis on the Grote Markt, which carried out a sharp terror. The most notorious participants in that terror were the later sentenced to death Dutch SS man Pieter Faber (executed) and his brother Klaas Carel Faber.

The liberation of Groningen in 1945 was accompanied by a fierce battle, partly due to the relatively large German garrison, including SS men. By the start of the war, the city was home to about 124,000 people, but a flood of refugees from the south had increased this number to over 150,000. Many resistance fighters were even arrested and executed shortly before Canadian soldiers liberated the city. The entire north and east wall of the Grote Markt was destroyed (see photo), the Martini tower and church were wonderfully spared.


After the war

After the war, the city expanded again. The Laanhuizen, Corpus den Hoorn and De Wijert neighborhoods rose to the south. In the early 1970s, a majority council was established under the leadership of Max van den Berg. One of the results of that college was the introduction of the traffic circulation plan.