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Dordrecht

Dordrecht, historically in English named Dort, is a city and municipality in the western Netherlands, located in the province of South Holland. It is the fourth largest city of the province, having a population of 118,601 in 2009.

View of Dordrecht, by Aelbert CuypThe municipality covers the entire Dordrecht Island, also often called Het Eiland van Dordt (the Island of Dordt), bordered by the rivers Oude Maas, Beneden Merwede, Nieuwe Merwede, Hollands Diep, and Dordtsche Kil. Dordrecht is the largest and most important city in the Drechtsteden and is also part of the Randstad, the main conurbation in the Netherlands. Dordrecht is the oldest city in Holland and has a rich history and culture.

Etymology
The name Dordrecht comes from Thyre, the name of a river, and Middle Dutch drecht "ford", thus meaning "Thure river crossing". Some documentation speaks of the river actually being called Thuredrith. Inhabitants of Dordrecht are Dordtenaren (singular: Dordtenaar). Dordrecht is informally called Dordt by its inhabitants. In earlier centuries, Dordrecht was a major trade port, well known to British merchants, and was called Dort in English.

Early History
The city was formed along the Thure river, in the midst of peat swamps. This river was a branch of the river Dubbel and ran approximately near the current Bagijnhof. The first reference to Dordrecht was made in 846 in the Annals of Xanten for the Years 844-862 where the author notes how the Northmen (Vikings) plundered eastern and western Frisia and set fire to the town of Dordrecht. Around 1120 reference to Dordrecht was made by a remark that count Dirk IV was murdered 1049 near "Thuredrech".

Plan of Dordrecht from 1868.Dordrecht was granted city rights by William I, Count of Holland, in 1220, making it the oldest city in the present province of South Holland. In fact, Geertruidenberg was the first city in the historical county of Holland to receive city rights, but this municipality currently is part of the province of Noord-Brabant.

In the 12th and 13th centuries, Dordrecht developed into an important market city because of its strategic location. It traded primarily in wine, wood and cereals. Dordrecht was made even more important when it was given staple right in 1299.

In 1253 a Latin school was founded in Dordrecht. It still exists today as the Johan de Witt Gymnasium and is the oldest gymnasium in the Netherlands. From 1600 to 1615 Gerhard Johann Vossius was rector at this school.

On 17 April 1421, the Saint Elisabeth's flood flooded large parts of southern Holland, causing Dordrecht to become an island. Over 10,000 people died in the flood.

Union of Dordrecht
In 1572, four years into the Dutch Revolt, representatives of all the cities of Holland, with the exception of Amsterdam, as well as the Watergeuzen, represented by William II de la Marck, gathered in Dordrecht to hold the Eerste Vrije Statenvergadering ("First Assembly of the Free States"), also known as the Unie van Dordrecht ("Union of Dordrecht"). This secret meeting, called by the city of Dordrecht, was a rebellious act since only King Philip II or his stadtholder, at that time the Duke of Alva, were allowed to call a meeting of the states.

During the meeting, the organization and financing of the rebellion against the Spanish occupation was discussed, Phillip II was unanimously denounced and William of Orange was chosen as the new stadtholder and recognized as the official leader of the revolt. Orange was promised financial support of his struggle against the Spanish and at his own request, freedom of religion was declared in all of Holland.

The gathering is regarded as the first important step towards the free and independent Dutch Republic.[1] Other gatherings such as the Union of Brussels (1577) and the Union of Utrecht (1579) paved the way for official independence of the Netherlands, declared in the Act of Abjuration in 1581.

The Union of Dordrecht was held in an Augustinian monastery, nowadays simply called het Hof ("the Court"). The room in which the meeting was held is called de Statenzaal ("The Hall of States") and features a stained glass window in which the coats of arms of the twelve cities that were present at the meeting can be seen.

Modern history
The Grote Kerk and one of the many canals (New Harbor)In the 18th century, the importance of Dordrecht began to wane, and Rotterdam became the main city in the region. Yet throughout the centuries, Dordrecht held a key position in the defense of Holland. It hosted an army division well into the 20th century. During the mobilization of August 1939, infantry and artillery were sent to Dordrecht to defend the island. When the Germans invaded the Netherlands on the 10th of May 1940 German paratroopers landed in Dordrecht. After fierce fighting they overtook the bridges Dordrecht-Moerdijk and Dordrecht-Zwijndrecht.Many buildings in Dordrecht were destroyed.

At the end of the Second World War, during the winter of 1944–45, Dordrecht and its surroundings were in the middle between the opposing armies. The border between occupied and liberated regions ran along the Hollands Diep. Dordrecht was finally liberated by the Canadian Army.

In 1970, the municipality Dubbeldam (then ca. 10,000 inhabitants) and the southern part of the municipality of Sliedrecht were incorporated into Dordrecht, making Dordrecht Island one municipality.

Culture
Because of its long and important role in Dutch history, Dordrecht has a rich culture. The medieval city centre is home to over 950 monuments.[5] The city also houses 7 churches and 6 museums in a relatively small area and hosts many festivals and events every year.
Places of interest

*  The Onze-Lieve-Vrouwe-Kerk ('Our Dear Lady Church') or simply the Grote Kerk ('Big Church') was built between 1285 and 1470. The 65-meter tower contains a carillon with 67 bells including one weighing 9830 kilos, making it the heaviest bell in the Netherlands.
*  The Augustijnenkerk ('Church of the Augustins') was built around 1293 and is currently owned by the Dutch Reformed Church. The church includes the Augustinian Monastery het Hof ('the Court') which was built in 1275 and was the location of the First Assembly of the Free States.
*  The Nieuwkerk ('New Church') or St Nicolaas Kerk was built in 1175 and is, ironically considering its name, the oldest building in Dordrecht.
*  The Munt van Holland ('Mint of Holland'), mint built in 1366. The majority of the coins used in the region of Holland in the Middle Ages were struck here. Nowadays, the building houses a music school.
*  Kyck over den Dyck ('View over the Dike'), the last windmill in Dordrecht. It was built in 1612 and used to produce malt that was used by Dordts beer brewers.
*  The Groothoofdspoort ('Big Head's Gate') is the original city gate of Dordrecht, built in the 14th and 15th centuries. It is situated at the point where the rivers the Meuse, the Merwede, and the Rhine meet.
*  Arend Maartenshof (Arend Maarten's Court), built in 1625.
*  Stadhuis city hall, built in 1383.
*  Statue of Ary Scheffer (1861), by Joseph Mezzara.
*  Statue of Johan and Cornelis de Witt (1918), by Toon Depuis.
*  River quay.
*  Canals.
*  Merchant houses.

Museums
The following museums are located in Dordrecht:
*  Dordrechts Museum, informally called Schilderijenmuseum (the paintings museum). Every summer, its garden, known as de Museumtuin, (the Museum garden), hosts the showing of several art house films that gained significant attention in the previous year. Re-opened in late 2010 after an extensive renovation.
*  Simon van Gijnmuseum, named after honorary citizen Simon van Gijn and winner of the museum prize 2004–2005, awarded by the Prins Bernhard Cultuurfonds.
*  Nationaal Landschapskundig Museum, (National Museum of Landscaping)
*  Lips Slotenmuseum, (Lips Museum of Locks) The museum has closed down and it is not known when or indeed if the inventory will be on display again.
*  Museum 1940–1945, also known as het Verzetsmuseum (the Resistance museum).
*  Naaimachinemuseum Dordrecht, (Museum of Sewing machines Dordrecht)

Nature
The Sliedrechtse Biesbosch, east of Dordrecht, and the Dordtse Biesbosch, south of Dordrecht, together form the Hollandse Biesbosch which is a part of the national park the Biesbosch, one of the largest national parks in the Netherlands and one of the last freshwater tide areas in Europe. The Dordtse Biesbosch has several recreational areas that are used for walking, rowing and swimming.

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