A Blog by International Students at Leiden University
The weekend before last I visited the ruins of the medieval castle of Teylingen. The weather was amazing, as spring is finally here. The day was sunny and actually a little warm, so the 45 minute cycle there from Leiden was really enjoyable, especially with all the cherry and magnolia trees flowering.
The ruins of the once mighty brick buildings are surrounded by a moat and they consist of the remains of a round wall and a curved keep which is now roofless. This is quite a special and unique architectural feature for Dutch medieval castles.
The site has a long and fascinating history. The castle was first built by the Van Teylingen family at the beginning of the 13th century as a protection for the Rhine dike on the main road that lead from Leiden to Haarlem. Because the Van Teylingens had no direct heirs, in 1282 the fortress passed to be property of the counts of Holland, who expanded it and used it as a hunting lodge. One of the most famous inhabitants of the castle was Jacoba van Beieren, Countess of Hainaut, an intelligent and resilient noblewoman who took part in a great deal of political intrigues and wars in early 15th century north-western Europe.
Teylingen castle was severely damaged during the Eighty Years’ War (the widespread conflict that resulted in the independence of the Netherlands from the Spanish Empire) particularly between 1572-1574. Despite being restored in 1605, a fire that destroyed the roof in 1676 left the keep and round walls in ruins. It wasn’t until the second half of the 19th century, when Teylingen became property of the State, that the remains of the castle began to be restored and taken care of as valuable historical monuments of the Netherlands.
The castle ruin still holds a very important meaning for the communities that live around it, acting as a symbol of identity and local pride. A sign of this is that when Sassenheim, Voorhout and Warmond were amalgamated into a new municipality in 2006, it was named after Teylingen Castle.
My visit to the castle was not purely a leisure day trip outside the city, as it was actually part of a semester-long assignment from a Site Management course that is part of my research master’s programme in Heritage at the Faculty of Archaeology, in which, grouped in teams, we have to create a viable management plan for a heritage site. In it we have to take into account the legal context, conservation issues, the values and interests of different stakeholders, sustainable approaches towards visitors and tourists, as well as the social and economic impact on local communities.
I highly recommend the visit to the castle as a way of knowing a bit more of the regional history of Holland. A local volunteer association opens it every weekend and entrance fee is only 3€. Cycling there from Leiden is easy and makes a very nice trip, especially now that the flower season has started, as north of the ruins and in the surrounding area there are large fields of daffodils, hyacinths and of course tulips.
Have you been to Teylingen Castle or would like to? Let me know in the comments!