For sightseers in South Holland, a trip to visit the Groothoofdspoort is an absolute must. This structure used to be the city gate of the settlement of Dordrecht, which greeted those who entered the town by water. Located at the confluence of the Merwede river, the Oude Maas river and the Noord river, the building would have been a spectacular sight for all who enter the town via one of these waterways.
Although initial work began on designing the building in 14th Century, the main part of the structure was not completed until the early 15th Century. The gothic details which are visible were common architectural features of the time; however this makes them no less stunning, especially when you consider that few buildings from this period have survived. The tower was added later in 1618.
The relief on the front of the structure shows the Dordrecht maiden sitting in the “Garden of Holland”. In her left hand she holds a palm branch and in her right she holds the city shield of Dordrecht. Underneath the relief, there is an inscription in Latin, which reads “Unity and Peace are the best defence for a city. May my God protect me”. Around the maiden, the city shields of 16 other Dutch cities are arranged. Starting in the top right hand corner (the monk), you can see the shields of Monnickendam, Enkhuizen, Asperen, Heusden, Schiedam , Vlaardingen, Geertruidenberg, Schoonhoven, Hoorn, Weesp, Leerdam, Naarden, Muiden, Medemblik, Grootebroek. These are 16 of the cities which were integral to the rebellion during the Eighty Years War, which led to the eventual secession of the Dutch republic. On the opposite side of the tower there is another relief, which shows the Dordrecht crest, held by two griffins.
Dordrecht is the oldest city in the Holland area, dating back to the 9th Century and being granted formal city rights in 1220. Due to its location, the city became a major trade port and international hub. By the 16th Century, the city had become known for its minor acts of rebellion against the crown, which were the first steps towards establishing an independent Dutch Republic. Because of its position, the city has often been thought of as an important strategic position in warfare, and therefore it was attacked by German paratroopers during the early stages of World War II. Many of the buildings in the city were destroyed during the prolonged fighting, and were later rebuilt.
It is free to view the Groothoofsdspoort from the outside. There are plenty of cafes and terraces near to the gate, so that you can relax and enjoy the view of the three rivers and the other wonderful architecture at this crossroads.
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