The Proud Towers

Fortifications used to be a blessing and a curse for the cities they were defending. A blessing because life was safer, or at least people were protected from unexpected attacks. A curse because on the long run they would hinder the development of the city- space was limited inside the fortress while outside constructions were not allowed close to the walls, to make sure the enemy would find no shelter. Sometimes a new, wider set of walls was built, to fit a growing population, but that was an expensive initiative, and some cities simply couldn’t afford it. It comes as no surprise then that most walls were quickly demolished in the 19th century, when the development of artillery firepower rendered them obsolete.

Some traces of the old fortifications still remain however in most Dutch towns: the former city gates, some of them built as early as the Middle Ages, others from the 17th and 18th centuries. Since they were built to impress, many of them were simply kept as historical monuments (their size was seen as a symbol for the power of the cities they were defending). Sometimes they were re-used for various public purposes- in Amsterdam for example, the famous weigh house on Nieuwmarkt square is housed by the medieval Sint Antoniespoort. Nowadays they are among the most photographed monuments in the Netherlands. Here are a few samples.

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