Tilburg, Netherlands


Tilburg is a city in the Dutch province of Noord-Brabant and capital of the municipality of Tilburg with the same name. On January 1, 2020, the city had 198,985 inhabitants.



Prehistoric traces of habitation in present-day Tilburg have been found at the industrial estate Kraaiven and date back to 9000 years before Christ. Current science assumes that they were itinerant hunter-gatherers of the Tjonger culture.

The name Tilburg appears for the first time in the Liber aureus from 1191. In it a document from 709 was copied that would have been drawn up in Tilburg (actum publice Tilliburgis). The current Tilburg was then known as West Tilburg, while East Tilburg was overshadowed by Oisterwijk, which was founded right next to it in 1212. The entire estate, which included even more places, is known as Groot-Tilburg. In 1387 Tilburg was separated from Oisterwijk and, together with Goirle, they formed the manor of Tilburg and Goirle. This was part of the Kwartier van Oisterwijk of the Meierij van 's-Hertogenbosch.

In the 15th century, Jan van Haestrecht, one of the lords of Tilburg, had Tilburg Castle built, which had to make way for a factory in 1858. It can still be found in the city's coat of arms and logo. The administrative unit of Tilburg arose from a number of hamlets, so-called herdgangen, which were connected with each other. The old village centers can still be found in the names of various old neighborhoods.

On the basis of the available sheep farming, Tilburg grew into the most important wool city of Brabant around 1600 and in the mid-18th century it outstripped the almost completely disappeared Dutch textile industry. On April 18, 1809, Tilburg received city rights from Louis Napoleon, then monarch of the Kingdom of Holland. This happened during an inspection trip that the king made from April 13 to May 17, 1809 in the departments of Brabant and Zeeland. During this trip many problems of Tilburg and Brabant were discussed. Examples are the infrastructure, health care, restitution of the churches and the weekly markets. The city then had 9000 inhabitants.

In the years that followed, important connecting roads were established, such as the road from Breda via Tilburg to 's-Hertogenbosch in 1826 and the railway to Breda in 1863. The Wilhelmina Canal, which provided Tilburg with a port, came into use in 1916 but was not used until Completed 1923. Piushaven was dug in 1921.


King Willem II and the palace

King Willem II liked to stay in Tilburg. He once remarked about the place: "Here I breathe freely and I feel happy" (also quoted as "Here I breathe frankly and freely"). The Tilburg palace was built on his behalf in 1847, nowadays referred to as Paleis-Raadhuis. It served as a country residence, but due to the growth of the city it has come to lie in the center. The king himself was never able to reside in it because he died before it was completed. However, he was laid out in it after his death.

The palace was transferred by the royal family to the municipality, on the condition that a Hogere Burger School (HBS) would be established in it, the first in Noord-Brabant. This "Rijks HBS Koning Willem II" still exists as Koning Willem II College, but in a different building. The most famous student of this HBS is Vincent van Gogh, who attended the school in the period 1866-1868. In the Palace-Town Hall, a drawing room has been recreated in the style of the time of Vincent van Gogh.

The indoor connection of this white-plastered building with the so-called Black Box, officially called Stadskantoor 1, dates from the time when the palace was used as a town hall.


Late 19th - early 20th century

The city became big at the end of the 19th century due to the textile industry that settled between the herds. In 1871 the city had no fewer than 125 wool fabric factories. Tilburg was therefore called the wool city. At the end of the 19th century, numerous mansions were built that can still be found in the city. This gradually resulted in a city structure with shops and workers' houses.

The development into a city brought with it the need for a general expansion plan, which was drawn up in 1917 by the urban planner Johan Rückert. This anticipated the future demographic development of the city and the bottlenecks in the traffic structure, including the railway line that divided the growing city in two. In 1940 the city already had 93,000 inhabitants.

In 1927, the Roman Catholic Trade College was founded, which has grown into the current university.



The Second World War was also the greatest disaster that history had ever brought to Tilburg for Tilburg. The bridge over the Wilhelmina Canal was blown up by the Dutch army. Already in the May days of 1940, Tilburg was the target of German bombings, resulting in fourteen deaths. After that, incidental bombings followed. Eighteen Dutch soldiers from Tilburg were killed defending against the German attack.



After the Second World War, developments continued. The plans for the east-west boulevard south of the railway, first formulated in 1947, were further developed in 1953 and realized in 1958. In 1960 the city already had 139,000 inhabitants.

During the 60s of the 20th century, the textile industry disappeared. This loss was offset by the establishment of modern industry on business parks on the outskirts of the city. The city center was tackled from 1975 onwards. This was often done in a rigorous manner, with the traffic flow receiving the most attention. Much historical heritage was demolished and the so-called Cityring was built around the city center. The Koningsplein was also constructed, on the site of the former Koningswei district. Because of all this, the then mayor Cees Becht, responsible for these plans, was nicknamed Cees de Sloper.


Recent History

From the 80s of the 20th century, further expansion took place, showing more respect for the heritage present.

A clear high-rise policy has been developed in Tilburg since 1993. This resulted in three tall buildings that can be regarded as skyscrapers by Dutch standards, namely the Interpolis head office, the Westpoint residential tower and the StadsHeer. Westpoint is 143.1 meters high and was therefore the highest residential tower in the Netherlands for a short time, a title that was later taken over by Montevideo in Rotterdam. The StadsHeer, Tilburg's second residential tower, is 101 meters high. This residential tower is part of the 'Het Haestrechtkwartier' project. This concerns an area located in the station zone, immediately west of Central Station, consisting of four offices, a parking garage and a residential tower. The StadsHeer has been nicknamed 'De Vogelkooikes' because of its criticized appearance with its large cube-shaped balconies that seem stuck to the building.

From 2012, an urban area has developed around the Piushaven with various luxury apartment complexes (built in the period 2012-2019), where living, working, going out and water sports come together.


Ecclesiastical History

The oldest parish church in Tilburg, or actually West Tilburg, stood on the same place where the Heikese church is now. It was dedicated to Saint Dionysius. Little is known of the history of this church, except that it was expanded from 1430 onwards. The Gothic church was rededicated in 1483. In 1595 the church burned down due to acts of war during the Eighty Years' War. It was rebuilt and rededicated as such in 1619. In 1648 the church was requisitioned by the reforms and in 1650 the Catholics moved into a border church in Steenvoort, which belonged to Poppel. Later mass was celebrated in the outbuildings of Tilburg Castle and in 1691 a barn church was built in 't Heike and in 1715 there was also a barn church in Goirke. It is true that Catholics got their church back in Napoleonic times, but it was poorly maintained. In 1827 a neoclassical front was added and some time later the church was demolished and rebuilt as a neoclassical hall church. It was a water management church. This church was consecrated in 1838.

From the mid-19th century, new churches were built at a rapid pace. The names of Joannes Zwijsen and Peerke Donders are associated with the 19th-century Catholic history of Tilburg. Partly thanks to Joannes Zwijsen, Tilburg became a Catholic stronghold, as evidenced by the large number of monasteries and churches that can still be found in the city today, such as the Goirkese church and the Heuvelse church. At its peak Tilburg had 31 parish churches. During the 70s of the 20th century there was a change. The secularization resulted in many parishes being merged. Several churches and monastic buildings have been demolished or converted for other purposes.

See the list of religious buildings in Tilburg for an overview of fully or partially preserved churches and monastic buildings.