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Den Bosch - 's-Hertogenbosch

's-Hertogenbosch, literally "The Duke's Forest") is a city and municipality in the southern Netherlands. It is the capital of the province of North Brabant. 's-Hertogenbosch is located 80 km south of Amsterdam (map).

In speech, the Dutch seldom use the formal 's-Hertogenbosch but rather the colloquial Den Bosch [dɛmˈbɔs] ( listen). Den Bosch means "The Forest".

History
The city's official name is a contraction of the Dutch des Hertogen bosch—"the Duke's forest". The duke in question was Henry I, Duke of Brabant, whose family had owned a large estate at nearby Orthen for at least four centuries. He founded a new town located on some forested dunes in the middle of a marsh. At age 26, he granted 's-Hertogenbosch city rights and the corresponding trade privileges in 1185. This is, however, the traditional date given by later chroniclers; the first mention in contemporaneous sources is 1196. The original charter has been lost. His reason for founding the city was to protect his own interests against encroachment from Gelre and Holland; from its first days, he conceived of the city as a fortress. It was destroyed in 1203 in a joint expedition of Gelre and Holland, but was soon rebuilt. Some remnants of the original city walls may still be seen. In the late 15th century, a much larger wall was erected to protect the greatly expanded settled area. Artificial waterways were dug to serve as a city moat, through which the rivers Dommel and Aa were diverted.
Boze Griet, a forged cannon from 1510 in the Bastionder museum

Until 1520, the city flourished, becoming the second largest population centre in the territory of the present Netherlands, after Utrecht. The birthplace and home of one of the greatest painters of the northern Renaissance, Hieronymus Bosch, the city was also a center of music, and composers, such as Jheronimus Clibano, received their training at its cathedrals. Others held positions there: Matthaeus Pipelare was musical director at the Confraternity of Our Lady; and renowned Habsburg copyist and composer Pierre Alamire did much of his work at 's-Hertogenbosch.

Eighty Years' War
The wars of the Reformation changed the course of the city's history. It became an independent bishopric. During the Eighty Years' War, the city took the side of the Habsburg (Catholic) authorities and thwarted a Calvinist coup. It was besieged several times by Prince Maurice of Orange, stadtholder of Holland, who wanted to bring 's-Hertogenbosch under the rule of the rebel United Provinces. The city was successfully defended by Claude de Berlaymont, also known as Haultpenne.

Thirty Years' War
In the years of Truce, before the renewed fighting after 1618, the fortifications were greatly expanded. The surrounding marshes made a siege of the conventional type impossible, and the fortress, deemed impregnable, was nicknamed the Marsh Dragon. The town was nevertheless finally conquered by Frederik Hendrik of Orange in 1629 in a typically Dutch stratagem: he diverted the rivers Dommel and Aa, created a polder by constructing a forty-kilometre dyke and then pumped out the water by mills. After a siege of three months, the city had to surrender—an enormous blow to Habsburg geo-political strategy during the Thirty Years' War. This surrender cut the town off from the rest of the duchy and the area was treated by the Republic as an occupation zone without political liberties (see also Generality Lands).

Louis XIV to Bonaparte
After the Peace of Westphalia, the fortifications were again expanded. In 1672, the Dutch rampjaar, the city held against the army of Louis XIV. In 1794, French revolutionary troops under command of Charles Pichegru took the city with hardly a fight: in the Batavian Republic, both Catholics and Brabanders at last gained equal rights.

From 1806, the city became part of France. It was captured by the Prussians in 1814. The next year, when the United Kingdom of the Netherlands was established, it became the capital of North Brabant. Many newer and more modern fortresses were created in the vicinity of the city. Until 1878 it was forbidden to build outside the ramparts. This led to overcrowding and the highest infant mortality in the kingdom. The very conservative city government prevented industrial investment—they didn't want the number of workers to grow—and the establishment of educational institutions—students were regarded as disorderly. As a result, the relative importance of the city diminished.

World War II and after
One of the few official Nazi concentration camp complexes in western Europe located outside of Germany and Austria was named after 's-Hertogenbosch. It operated from January 1943, to September 1944 and was known to the Germans as Herzogenbusch (see List of subcamps of Herzogenbusch). About 30,000 inmates were interned in the complex during this time, of whom about 12,000 were Jews. In the Netherlands, this camp is known as 'Kamp Vught', because the concentration camp was actually located at a heath near Vught, a village a few kilometres south of 's-Hertogenbosch. Some 700 years earlier, the entire Jewish population of 's-Hertogenbosch was burnt alive on the same heath.

Conquered by the Germans in World War II (1940), with its railway station bombed by RAF planes on 16 September 1944, it was liberated in 24–27 October 1944 by the British 53rd (Welsh) Division.

Main sights
s-Hertogenbosch is also home to Saint John's Cathedral (Sint Jans kathedraal in Dutch) which is said to be one of the most beautiful cathedrals in the Netherlands. 's-Hertogenbosch was founded as a fortified city and that heritage can still be seen today. After World War II, plans were made to modernise the old city, by filling in the canals, removing or modifying some ramparts and redeveloping historic neighbourhoods. Before these plans could come to effect however, the central government declared the city a protected townscape. Most historic elements have been preserved. Because the main ramparts are crucial in keeping out the water, they have never been slighted, their usual fate in the Netherlands. In contrast to cities like Rotterdam, 's-Hertogenbosch also survived the Second World War relatively unscathed. Much of its historic heritage remains intact, and today there are always renovations going on in the city to preserve the many old buildings, fortifications, churches and statues for later generations. In 2004 the city was awarded the title European Fortress City of the year. It is planned to restore the city defences to much of their old glory in the coming years. 's-Hertogenbosch also has the oldest remaining brick house in the Netherlands, 'de Moriaan', which was built at the beginning of the 13th century. In the north of the old city, the hexagonal powder arsenal, or Kruithuis, still exists, one of only two of its kind in the country. The Townhall is a 17th century building, erected in the typical style of Dutch classicism. Around the city itself many other fortresses can still be seen. Until recently it was a major garrison town.


The old city of 's-Hertogenbosch is still almost completely surrounded by continuous ramparts. On the south side, this wall still borders on an old polder, kept intact as a nature reserve, that stretches all the way to Vught. These city walls are currently undergoing renovations. Hidden below the old city is a canal network called the Binnendieze that once spanned 22 kilometres. It started out as a regular river, the Dommel, running through the city in medieval times but due to lack of space in the city, people started building their houses and roads over the river. In later times it functioned as a sewer and fell into disrepair. In recent decades, the remaining sixth of the old waterway system has been renovated, and it is possible to take several guided subterranean boat trips through it.

's-Hertogenbosch is also home to Saint John's Cathedral (Sint Jans kathedraal in Dutch) which is said to be one of the most beautiful cathedrals in the Netherlands. The Cathedral dates from c. 1220 and is best known for its (Brabantian) gothic design and the many sculptures of craftsmen that are sitting on almost every arc and rim along the outside of the cathedral. At the time of writing, the cathedral is being extensively renovated to undo the damage of many years of wear-and-tear and acid rain.

Museums are the Stedelijk Museum 's-Hertogenbosch, Noordbrabants Museum and the Jheronimus Bosch Art Center. The painter Hieronymus Bosch (c. 1450–1516) remains probably the best known citizen of 's-Hertogenbosch.

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