The Ins and Outs of Medieval Amsterdam: Gates and Fortifications

De Waag

De Waag

Various stone structures dot the oldest sections of the city of Amsterdam, particularly Oude Zijde. These were once part of the fortifications of this medieval town. The city walls were first constructed between 1482 and 1494.

Flowers for sale at Newmarkt

Flowers for sale at Newmarkt

De Waag, or the Weigh House, built in 1488, was originally called Sint Antoniespoort (Saint Anthony’s Gate) and served as one of the five main gates for entry into Amsterdam. It is one of only two remaining gates. Located in Newmarkt, de Waag is the oldest non-religious building in the city. Upstairs, guild rooms also formed part of the structure, and a large collection of medical memorabilia was left behind by the surgeon’s guild.

This cornice marks the entrance to Amsterdam’s Guild of St. Luke. Luke is the patron saint of artists. The guild included fine painters, sculptors, engravers, and other visual artists.

This cornice marks the entrance to Amsterdam’s Guild of St. Luke. Luke is the patron saint of artists. The guild included fine painters, sculptors, engravers, and other visual artists.

In 1601 the city walls were removed to allow for expansion and Sint Antoniespoort became a weigh house where importers were required to weigh their goods on their way into the city.

Munttoren in the distance.

Munttoren in the distance.

Munttoren–the Mint Tower–was one tower of the other surviving gate into the city, the Reguliersport. Built between 1480 and 1487, the gate burned in a fire in 1618, but the western tower survived and was rebuilt by 1620 in the Renaissance style that remains today. During the seventeenth-century French occupation, the republic’s mint was relocated from Dordrecht to this tower, giving it its modern-day name.

Interior of the restaurant that now occupies Schreierstoren.

Interior of the restaurant that now occupies Schreierstoren.

Among other fortifications are two defensive towers. The first is Schreierstoren, built in 1480,and known as the Weepers Tower. A waitress in the restaurant that now occupies the space told us that women stood at the window crying as they saw their husbands off to sea, knowing that they may never return. The waitress claimed that “schreier” is the old Dutch term for Weep. However, in the Middle Ages, Schreierstoren was located at a 90 degree corner of the city’s walls,

and research attributes the name to the Old Dutch word for sharp, “screye,” as in a sharp corner or turn.

My only photo of Montelbaanstoren is this one, taken on a gloomy day from a canal boat.

My only photo of Montelbaanstoren is this one, taken on a gloomy day from a canal boat.

Montelbaanstoren, whose bottom half was constructed in 1512 on Sint Antoniesdijk (now the Oudeschans) gained its decorative top section in 1606. Montelbaanstoren’s role was as defensive tower protecting Lastage, an important industrial area.

Getting in and out of Amsterdam is much easier nowadays, but its history remains apparent at every corner.

Coffee House

It’s 4:20… get to the nearest coffee house!

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