Bergen op Zoom: Stronghold on the Scheldt

From the sixteenth to the eighteenth centuries, writes Elka Schrijver, Bergen in North Brabant was the scene of important sieges.

A small but lively town, on the western edge of the province of North Brabant, Lonce the stronghold that protected the Dutch Republic against attacks from the South, Bergen op Zoom was immortalized in a seventeenth-century song still sung today. A small but go-ahead town, it was often burnt or blown to bits, always arose from its ashes, restored and rebuilt.

Today, it contains one of the most fascinating of those small historical museums to be found in so many old Dutch towns. The Markiezenhof is one of the loveliest medieval buildings in the country, beautifully restored as a romantic museum. It includes, apart from a wide range of works of art and some charming period rooms, an illuminating historical and military section.

The first settlers on some hills (bergen), between marshes on the east and the confluence of two mighty rivers on the west, sheltered by a diluvial ridge (zoom) from the marshes, seemed to like this place well enough to stay. This settlement, where the Scheldt divided its waters along an eastern and a western stream, gradually grew into a trading centre.

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