Delft is most famously known for its historic centre with canals, Delft Blue pottery and its connections with the royal House of Orange-Nassau. But did you know that the name ‘Delft’ was derived from the verb ‘delving’? By digging canals locals turned a swamp-like area into usable land where they built a small village. In 1246 Delft was granted city rights by Count William II. This meant that Delft could finally build a city wall, levy taxes and administer justice. During the next four centuries the city prospered and grew spectacularly.
The two historic churches of Delft are striking and tower above the city. The construction of the old church began in 1250, but quickly went awry. When the work started on the tower, the canal was in the way. The water was diverted, but the ground below the building site still turned out to be too soft. Eventually, the tower stood almost two metres off plumb. In the 19th century residents feared the tower would fall down and the city council considered demolishing the church. Luckily for us, they decided to stabilise it and after more then 750 years, the old church still stands tall.
The New Church was build between 1381 and 1496 and is famous for the Dutch royal family’s burial vault. The first person that was interred here was Prince William of Orange in 1584. The leader of the Dutch Rebellion was shot and killed at his headquarters in the nearby Prinsenhof. The church tower is the second tallest in The Netherlands. So if you’re fit and ready for a work out you can climb the 376 steps of the tower and be rewarded by amazing views of the city and its surroundings.
On may 3rd 1536 disaster struck in Delft as lightning hit the tower of the New Church. This led to a huge city fire and almost two thirds of Delft was burned to ashes. In 1618 the medieval town hall burned down, after which the architect Hendrik de Keyser designed the current neo-Renaissance building. The last major disaster occurred in 1654 when the large gunpowder store exploded and at least a hundred people were killed. The explosion was heard up to 150 kilometres away.
The Golden Age
In the 17th century the city of Delft thrived in areas such as trade, science and art. The Dutch East India Company established official warehouses in the city. So exotic products such as spices were readily available on local markets. Delft is also well known for its Delft Blue pottery, which was styled on imported porcelain from China. Today one pottery factory remains where you can discover more about this centuries-old handicraft: The Porceleyne Fles.
World famous citizens from the Golden Age of Delft include the painter Johannes Vermeer, legal expert Hugo de Groot and inventor of the microscope Antoni van Leeuwenhoek. Johannes Vermeer lived and worked in the city his entire life. He used the streets of Delft as inspiration for his most famous paintings like ‘The Little Street’ or ‘View of Delft’. The artist died in 1675 and his grave can be found in the Old Church.
During my tour we will walk on the same cobbled streets as these famous Delft residents. There are however so many more stories to tell. I will for instance talk about the scandalous Womens Riot of 1616. Or about why an important historical treaty that was signed in 1428 is nicknamed ‘The Kiss of Delft’. Delft also housed a medieval court and its interrogation techniques were infamous and rather bloody. In short, I would love for you to join me on a tour. The beautiful city of Delft is definitely worth a visit. Please send me a message, and I will get back to you as soon as possible.