Sluis, Netherlands


Sluis (West Flemish: Sluus) is a fortified city in the west of Zeeuws-Vlaanderen, in the Dutch province of Zeeland. The municipality to which the town belongs is also called Sluis, but the capital of this municipality is Oostburg. Until 1995, Sluis was an independent municipality. On January 1, 2020, the city of Sluis had 2,365 inhabitants.



Sluis was probably founded around 1260 by the Flemish count Jan I of Namur and originally had the name Lamminsvliet. In 1324, however, Sluis got its current name. The city owes its origin to the silting up of the Zwin. This blocked the direct connection of the important trading city of Bruges with the sea and Sluis became the most important outer port of Bruges. The village was granted city rights in 1290 and because of its strategic location, the city became a fortified city in 1382. In 1340, the Battle of Sluis had already taken place in the mouth of the Zwin, which was the prelude to the Hundred Years' War. In 1385 the construction of the Castle of Sluis started, which was badly damaged during the French invasion in 1794 and finally demolished in 1820.

From 1387, Sluis was the most important Burgundian fleet port. On January 7, 1430, the wedding took place here between Philip the Good and Isabella of Portugal. This reflected the importance of the city at the time. The heyday of Sluis lasted until about 1450, after which a rapid decline set in as a result of the silting up of the Zwin.

Sluis also played an important role as a fortified city during the Eighty Years' War. In 1587 the Duke of Parma captured the city. In 1603 a Battle of Sluis took place. The Spanish occupation lasted until 1604, when the Spaniards left the city, after which Maurits van Nassau, later Prince of Orange, took possession of the city. The story of Jantje van Sluis originates from this episode. In 1650 the famous Jodocus van Lodenstein became a minister in Sluis.

Although the city and surroundings subsequently played a role in the State-Spanish Lines, it had otherwise only become an insignificant town. On July 27, 1794, a siege by the French began. On August 25 of the same year, the city surrendered, partly due to illness of the defenders.

In 1858 the Damse Vaart was completed, allowing ships to sail from Sluis to Bruges. In 1940, however, the siphons of the Leopold Canal and the Schipdonk Canal were destroyed and never repaired, making navigation on the Damse Vaart impossible.

At the beginning of the 20th century, various French monastic orders came to Sluis, and family visits to students attending boarding schools became the reason that the shops were also opened on Sundays from 1908, which remained that way and gradually attracted more and more Belgian shoppers .

During the Allied bombings on October 11, 1944 as a result of the Second World War, Sluis was largely destroyed. In addition, 61 people were killed. The Germans who had entrenched themselves on and in the walls were unharmed. On November 1, 1944, they were attacked by the Canadian North Shore Regiment and eventually surrendered, liberating Sluis.

After the war, the city was rebuilt in a traditionalist style.



In 1907 the Brothers of the Christian Schools (F.S.C.) came to Sluis, as they were no longer allowed to function in France as a result of the secularization policy. They came from Saint-Omer and founded the Pensionnat Saint-Joseph, where up to 550 students were present. It was housed in a very large complex located on the southern approach road to Sluis. In 1939 the fathers left and the occupying forces used the buildings from 1940 to 1944. After that, NSB members were interned in them until 1948. In 1951 the buildings were sold to a Rotterdam firm and since then a number of companies have been in it. such as a furniture factory, a grain trade and a brush factory. There were a number of fires and in 1991 the building was demolished. Where it once stood is now a residential area.

In 1908, the Soeurs de Sainte Ursule de la très Sainte Vierge (Ursulines) founded a monastery on the road to Sint Anna ter Muiden. A girls' boarding school was supposed to be built here, but it was not a success, so the complex was sold in 1922 to the Brothers of the Christian Schools in Baarle-Nassau. These turned it into a holiday home and from 1938 until the German invasion it housed Catholic Jewish refugees. From 1947 to 1974 there was a Minor Seminary of the Regular Canons of St. John Lateran (C.R.L.), a congregation of Augustinians, established here with the name: St. Augustine. It has been a hotel restaurant since 1987.

A third monastery of the expelled French was established on the road to Heille. This Collège Séraphiques Saint-Antoine belonged to the Franciscan Friars Minor and a seminary was also attached to it. It was already sold in 1922 and became a bicycle factory, taken over by Superia after the war, but this company soon stopped. This building was also demolished in 2000.



The town of Sluis was largely destroyed in 1944 by Allied bombing. The unique Belfry was also completely destroyed at the time. However, the center has been rebuilt and the walls have remained intact.

The only Dutch belfry is located in the small-scale historic center of Sluis. This building also houses a historical museum.
Windmill De Brak, on the southern exit road.
The historic city of Sluis used to have a direct connection with the North Sea and the Western Scheldt via the Zwin. A remnant of the Zwin can be considered the Damse Vaart, which is a canal that gradually replaced the natural watercourse when it gradually silted up. The Damse Vaart has a dead end in Sluis. There used to be a harbor here, but shipping is no longer possible, because the Damse Vaart was interrupted in 1940 when the siphons were destroyed.
The foundations of the former St. John's Church. This church, which was one of the largest in the area, was built in the 14th century and destroyed by fire in 1811.
The old Red Light District of Sluis is still largely intact.
The Stone Bear.



Reformed Church
Joannes de Doperkerk
St. John's Church


Town hall and belfry

The biggest eye-catcher of Sluis is the town hall, which is the only one in the Netherlands with a belfry, a fortified tower with four corner turrets. The town hall was built in 1390 as a symbol of urban freedom, following the example of the belfries in Ghent and Bruges. The building suffered heavy damage in 1944, after which it was rebuilt in 1956. The council chamber is closed off by an 18th-century wrought iron gate from the town hall of Middelburg. Paintings and a tapestry (1650) hang along the walls. The tower (142 steps) offers a wide view of the Zeeland landscape.