At the strategic confluence of the Maas and Waal rivers where the provinces of South Holland, Gelderland and North Brabant meet in a tripoint, an imposing Medieval fortress towers above the flat estuarine land. Named for the man who built it around 1361, Lord Dirc Loef van Horne, Slot Loevestein (Literally Loef’s Stone House Castle) is one of the best-preserved fortresses in The Netherlands.
Some interesting facts:
- When Loef built his stone house, it consisted only of a two-story fortified tower, which he used as a base for raids into the surrounding countryside and to collect tolls from ships on the busy rivers.
- Loevestein was situated on the often redrawn border between the County of Holland and the Duchy of Gelre (Gelderland), two long-time adversaries. Although today the castle is in the province of Gelderland for most of its history Loevestein was on the Holland side of the line. The powerful Counts of Holland took possession from Loef and installed bailiffs to manage the castle.
- Gradually, the structure became an imposing fortress with several towers and a small courtyard. But Loef’s stone house, with which it all started, to this day remains as the lower section of one of the towers.
- The castle became a prison during the Eighty Years’ War (1568-1648) and remained so until August of 1831, when in the aftermath of the Belgian Uprising, in which Belgium seceded from the Kingdom of the Netherlands, about one hundred Belgian Prisoners of War were incarcerated there.
- The most famous of the prisoners at Loevestein was Hugo Grotius. In 1621, in one of the most spectacular and brazen prison escapes in the history of the Netherlands, he fled the castle in a book chest.
- In 1673, Loevestein was incorporated into the ‘Dutch Water Line’, which consisted of a number of forts, rising above the low-lying surrounding lands. The plan was that if a military threat arose, the dikes would be punctured and a controlled flood would inundate a wide swath of land, separating the enemy troops from the affluent west of the country. The army divested itself of the castle, which had become obsolete as a defensive fort, in 1951.
- The castle is open to the public. There are even four suites within the complex, which can be booked for a luxury overnight stay.
For more on Slot Loevestein, and Grotius's daring escape, read Issue 56 of Dutch the magazine.
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