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The history of Holland and the story of its ancient Capital and Residence Dordrecht

Counts of Holland Arms.svg Wapendordrecht
Coat of arms of the County of Holland Coat of arms of Dordrecht

The Story of Dordrecht

Dordrecht is common as the oldest city of HOLLAND. Dordrecht, also called DORT, South-Holland province, south-western Netherlands, Dordrecht is situated on the left bank of the Maas (Meuse) River, at the point where a long arm of the North Sea cuts deeply into the Dutch coastline at the divergence of the Merwede, Noord, Oude Maas (Old Meuse), and Dordtse Kil rivers.

Dordrecht is situated on an island (formed in 1421) and is surrounded by 5 rivers (Dordtse Kil, Hollands Diep, Lower Merwede, New Merwede and Olld Meuse) with several buildings older then 600 years and 1,100 buildings older then 300 years, Dordrecht is also called Venice of the North with idyllic old harbors and canals, so a wonderful city worth a visit.

Dordrecht was founded in 1008 by Count Theodore or Diederic (Dirk) III of the house of Frisia/Holland and was given city rights in 1015, it was the residence of the Counts of Holland until 1203 and was chartered in 1220 and fortified in 1271, it was the capital of Holland and the leading town during the 11th to the 17th century and one of the most prosperous medieval ports in the Netherlands, although severely damaged by the St. Elisabeth flood in 1421, Dordrecht stayed the leading city of Holland until it was surpassed as residence by The Hague in the 17th century, as seaport by Rotterdam in the 18th century and as Capital of the Netherlands by Amsterdam in the 19th century.

In 1572 Dordrecht welcomed the "Sea Beggars" (Water geuzen), when the Seven United Provinces of the Northern Netherlands rebelled against Spain, and was the scene of the first assembly of the United Provinces. It was the seat (1618-1619) of the important Synod of Dort, an international assembly of the Reformed Church (for which it had declared in 1572). Many of its medieval houses, courtyards, gates, quays, and canals have survived to contrast with spacious modern housing areas.

The full history of Dordrecht you can read on my Dordrecht History pages

 Adam Willaerts-Dordrecht

This portrait of Dordrecht was painted by order of the city. The painting gives a good picture of the activity on the waters at Dordrecht, which brought the city prosperity for centuries. In the painting is seen fishing boats, timber rafts and in the middle a war ship, which fires a salute-shot to Dordrecht. The main gates and buildings of Dordrecht, which Riedijk gate, the "Groot hoofd" gate (Oude Hoofd) and the Dordrecht Minster (Grote Kerk), are clearly recognizable. On the ship in the foreground Willaerts depicted himself with a sketchbook.

 Adam Willaerts-Dordrecht-close-up

Dordrecht - In a glance

Inhabitants: 119.324 (01-01-2008)
Size: 98.30 km3
Location: Between the rivers Merwede, Oude Maas (Old Meuse), Noord (North) and Dordtse Kil, on the so-called 'Eiland van Dordrecht' (Island of Dordrecht). Distance to other cities, Rotterdam 20 km, Delft 35 km, The Hague 45 km, Leiden 70 km, Amsterdam 100 km. Belgium 50 km, Paris 450 km.
Position: About 20 km southeast of Rotterdam, roughly 50 km north of the border with Belgium. Dordrecht lies at the southern tip of the province Zuid Holland (South Holland) (see arrow on the map below)
Famous for:
  • The Oldest City of Holland, one of the oldest cities of modern Netherlands.
  • The Financial center of Ancient Holland.
  • The first assembly of the States of Holland in 1572 in which the Seven United Provinces under the leadership of William I the Silent of Orange declared themselves independent from Spain.
  • The Synod of Dordrecht (1618-1619, an important religious institute of the Reformed church.
  • The birth-place of the brothers de Witt, Johan de Witt, a 17th-century Grand Pensionary of Holland, and his brother Cornelius were natives of the town. Important men of state and the first republicans in the 17th century, who were later lynched in The Hague.
  • The 17th-century Dutch painters Albeart Cuyp (the most famous), Ferdinand Bol, Aeart de Gelder, Samuel van Hoogstraten, Benjamin Gerritz Cuyp, Abraham Bloemaert, Nicolaes Maes and Ary Scheffer.
  • Museums with collections of paintings by old Dutch masters and local medieval antiquities.
  • Both the brothers de Witt and Ary Scheffer have a statue in the center of the town. A strange fact is that Albert Cuyp, one of the most worldwide famous painters, have no statue until this day. (it is said that there are now pictures of him).

Dordrecht on the map of the Netherlands


Flag of DordrechtThe city flag of Dordrecht has three horizontal stripes colored red, white, red. The later flag of the United Netherlands (including Belgium and Luxemburg) in the 16 century, colored orange, white and blue was derived from it, even as the modern flag of the Netherlands colored red, white and blue.

WapendordrechtThe Dordrecht arms consist of two griffons holding a crowned shield of red, divided by a central, vertical bar of silver and was derived from the coat of arms of the Counts of Holland as a sign of the importance of the city and already in use during the early middle ages.

On the next pages you can read the whole story of the Ancient Capital of Holland and the historical evens that took place from the early middle ages until the 18th century in Dordrecht.

Index of pages about the history of Dordrecht with a short description


In page

The history of Dordrecht from  993 to 1222

History part 1

The history of Dordrecht from 1222 to 1299

History part 2

The history of Dordrecht from 1299 to 1356

History part 3

The history of Dordrecht from 1356 to 1417

History part 4

The history of Dordrecht from 1417 to 1433

History part 5

The history of Dordrecht from 1433 to 1555

Coming soon


Stories of the last Martyrs of Dordrecht, before 1572






Photo presentation Dordrecht Minster (Grote Kerk) outside

Buildings part 1

Photo presentation Dordrecht Minster (Grote Kerk) inside

Buildings part 2

Photo presentation of other old buildings part 3

Coming soon

Photo presentation of other old buildings part 4

Coming soon


More in this category: The history of Dordrecht part 1 »
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