Dorwerth Castle in the Netherlands its history and description

Dorwert Castle

In the Dutch province of Gelderland, not far from Arnhem, in the floodplain of the Rhine River stands the famous Dorwert Castle.

In its long and rich life it has undergone many reconstructions and rebuildings, and has been home to many noble inhabitants, including a remarkable woman about whom a famous novel was written.

History of Dorvert

To get to know its first inhabitants, we have to go back to the Middle Ages, when the knight Berend van Dorenwerth built a castle on the banks of the Rhine in 1250. It was still very small, wooden and had only one tower. Ten years later, the knight’s conflict with a neighboring count resulted in the first Dorenwerth castle being burned, and van Dorenwerth himself being punished for terrorizing ships passing through the Rhine.

It was not until 1280 that Berend van Dorenwerth’s descendant rebuilt his predecessor’s castle, but made it more powerful, larger and more secure. From 1430 to 1677 the castle was repeatedly resold, and each subsequent owner rebuilt the castle, making it more and more solid and impregnable. Several towers were built, the walls were reinforced, and the inner rooms of the castle became more comfortable and richer with every reconstruction. However, one of the masters of Dorvert, Johann Vincenn van Obbendorf, did not calculate his strength and financial possibilities, so that in 1677 he was forced to sell his castle to the main creditor – Count Anton Oldenburg, a Danish nobleman, a representative of one of the most influential European noble houses.

The most famous resident of Dorvert Castle was Charlotte Sophia Oldenburg Bentinck (1715-1800). A descendant of Earl Anton, she was briefly the wife of Earl William Bentink, the owner of Dorvert.

She was an unusual woman for her time. Independent and impulsive, she would have gained fame as a feminist in modern times. She led an active public life, her novels were known throughout Europe, and she herself was a welcome guest at European royal courts. The great Voltaire, with whom she corresponded for a long time, came to meet her. She did not spend much time in the castle, being on constant travels, but she was considered its mistress until the end of her life. In 1978, the Dutch writer Hella Haas immortalized Charlotte Sophia’s name in her now-famous novel Madame Bentinck, which was reprinted several times and won the French prize for best foreign book.

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In 1837 the castle was bought by Baron van Braeckel, who modernized the Dorwerth and invested heavily in its modernization. The baron also sought to preserve the historic uniqueness of his new home. After his death, however, none of his nine children showed any interest in the castle, van Brakel’s family returned to their former possessions, and the castle began to decline.

At the end of the nineteenth century in the Netherlands, increasing attention was paid to the restoration of historic buildings, castles and palaces throughout the country. In Dorvert Castle archaeological work was carried out by the famous Dutch military, collector and history enthusiast F. Hofer, who insisted on the restoration of the castle. In 1910, he drew up a restoration plan, in which he was actively assisted by the famous architect Peter Kuipers.

Just before the outbreak of World War II, the rebuilding of Dorvert was almost complete. However, all the efforts were in vain. The castle was a few kilometers from the town of Arnhem, in the vicinity of which the heaviest battles were fought in 1944. German bombing and artillery fire of the Allies destroyed a large part of the almost reconstructed Dorvert. In 1956, reconstruction work began again, which lasted for 37 years.

In 1983 all the work was completed, three years later Princess Juliana of the Netherlands opened its doors to all comers. You can visit the castle as part of a tour group or on your own.

As with most castles in the Netherlands, the interior of Dorvert bears little resemblance to what it was centuries ago. What you can see today is the result of the painstaking work of historians, who purposely collected and restored the interior to give a more or less true picture of what the castle once looked like from the inside. Therefore, some rooms are in medieval style and some are furnished according to the realities of the 16th and 17th centuries.

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In the kitchen of the castle there is a large stove, an iron, a hot water tank and plenty of dishes. Special speakers broadcast the sounds of the kitchen, which give the impression that the servants are about to return and begin their daily duties.

The armory, arranged in seventeenth-century style, displays medieval armor. Thus within the walls of Dorvert the different eras penetrate into each other and interact, creating a unique atmosphere of the rich history of the place.

The castle is also home to a number of museums. “The Dutch Hunting Museum” consists of several rooms that tell the history of hunting in the Netherlands. You can see in it hunting equipment, stuffed animals, paintings depicting the process of hunting. And the Veluwezom museum consists of two small halls, in which hang small paintings by artists of the XIX century. They depict landscapes of Dutch nature: forests, fields and rivers.

Finally, Dorvert Castle, as an old castle, has a reputation as a “haunted house”. For a long time there have been talks about paranormal phenomena, ghosts and white female silhouettes around this place. In 2004, enthusiasts from Great Britain even “caught” one ghost on video.

However, if you visit Dorvert, you are more likely to be completely captured by the atmosphere of centuries-old history of this place, the atmosphere of distant antiquity, which breathes here every stone, and ghosts will not be able to capture your attention.

Castles of the Netherlands

Castles of the Netherlands

Among the hundreds of castles that have been built in the Netherlands over the past two millennia, many have survived to this day. Although a significant number of these impressive fortifications have remained in private hands, many are open to the public and welcome visitors throughout the year.

12 Spectacular Castles of the Netherlands

Uncover the history of Holland by exploring its architectural landmarks. There are about 700 examples in the Netherlands, reflecting both historic castles and luxurious palaces. Some are steeped in royal history, where one can trace the roots of the Dutch royal family and its connections to other royal houses. Many others, however, belonged to the nobility. Today, these castles and palaces are tourist attractions where visitors come to admire the architecture, art collections and gardens. Let’s continue with a list of the most impressive castles in the Netherlands:

  1. Castle de Haar . It is considered one of the largest and most luxurious castles in the Netherlands. The current buildings, built from drawings and blueprints of the original structure, date from 1892 and are the work of architect P.J.H. Kuipers as part of a Neo-Gothic restoration project financed by the Rothschild family. Few castles in the Netherlands can compare to De Haar in the perfect image of a medieval fortress with towers, ramparts, moats, gates and drawbridges. The interior of the castle is decorated with rich wood carvings, which resemble the interior of a Roman Catholic church. Around the castle is a park with many water features and a garden that recalls one of the French gardens of Versailles.
  2. Meiderslot . The impressive square medieval castle is located at the mouth of the Vecht River, about 15 km southeast of Amsterdam. Maiderslot is one of the most famous castles in the Netherlands and has been featured in many television shows about the Middle Ages. Its history begins with Count Floris V, who built a stone castle at the mouth of the river back in 1280. Twenty years later it was conquered and razed to the ground, but 100 years later Maiderslot was rebuilt in the same place and according to the same plan by Albert I, Duke of Bavaria.
  3. Nijenrode Castle . It was built around 1260 by the knight Gerard Splinter van Ruviel. The location was well chosen: a strategic location on the narrowest part of the bank of the River Fecht. The castle was destroyed in 1481 and 1511. In the XVII century, Bernard van den Bongar III transformed Nijenrode into a magnificent manor, modernizing and decorating the exterior of the building. The castle acquired the characteristic features of a knightly mansion in the Dutch Renaissance style.
  4. Peace Palace . It was erected in The Hague as a symbol of the ideals of pacifism through the collective cooperation of countries from all over the world. The palace could not have found a better place than The Hague in the Netherlands, the city of justice and peace. Today the building is used by the International Court of Justice, The Hague Academy of International Law, the Permanent Court of Arbitration, and the Peace Palace Library.
  5. Heswijk . A former castle with a moat that was built in the 11th century and restored in 2005. Heswijk Castle played a crucial role in the history of the Netherlands. In 1672, French King Louis XIV stayed there during his campaign against the Dutch Republic. At the end of the eighteenth century, General Pichegru, a French general under Napoleon, used the place as his headquarters. The castle is now a museum that reflects the life and traditions of the Netherlands in the mid-nineteenth century.
  6. Hohensbruck . This imposing water castle is known as “the richest stronghold between the Maas and the Rhine”. Because of its important strategic location in the Duchy of Brabant along important trade routes to Cologne, Maastricht and Aachen, Hohensbruck has expanded over the centuries. It contains no fewer than 67 halls, rooms and living quarters.
  7. Dornenburg . It is one of the largest and best preserved castles in the Netherlands. Dornenburg was originally a fortified manor house, built in the ninth century. Gradually, over the centuries, the castle was expanded to its present form. The castle was inhabited until the nineteenth century, after which it was abandoned and almost completely destroyed. Dornenburg was not rebuilt until between 1947 and 1968.
  8. Royal Palace . It is located on Dam Square in the heart of Amsterdam. In the 17th century it was the largest secular building in Europe. Today, the Royal Palace on the Dam is one of the 3 buildings that the state has placed at the disposal of the King of the Netherlands. It is used for royal events, such as the reception of foreign heads of state, the King’s New Year’s reception and other official events.
  9. Ammersoyen Castle . It was built by the Van Gerlaer family around 1350 along a branch of the Maas River. Only a few years after construction was completed, the river was diverted, leaving the castle surrounded by a moat. Ammersoyen was designed as a defensive fortress.
  10. Radbow . It was commissioned by Floris V, who ruled from 1256 to 1296 as Earl of Holland and Zealand. Fortunately, construction was completed before the St. Lucia Flood, which affected the Netherlands and North Germany. Restoration work on the castle was done in 1889 and 1965.
  11. Loefestein . This medieval castle was built by the knight Dirk Loaf van Horn (hence its name “Loef stone house”) between 1357 and 1397. Before World War II, the castle was part of the Dutch Waterline, the main defense of the Netherlands. The castle is now used as a medieval museum and functional center.
  12. Dorvert . The original mention of the castle (most likely wooden) dates from 1260, when it was besieged and burned to the ground. Dorvert was then rebuilt in stone. During the fourteenth century the castle was continually enlarged and reached its present form in the mid-sixteenth century under Dame Schellart van Obbendorf, the fifteenth lord of Dorenwerth.
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