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Title: Bergen-op-Zoom  
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Subject: Thirty Years' War, 1622, Michiel de Ruyter, Schoten, James Wolfe, Guy Carleton, 1st Baron Dorchester, List of duels, 4th Canadian Division, William Knight (bishop), Battle of Fleurus (1622)
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Bergen op Zoom


Coat of arms

Coordinates: 51°30′N 04°18′E / 51.500°N 4.300°E / 51.500; 4.300Coordinates: 51°30′N 04°18′E / 51.500°N 4.300°E / 51.500; 4.300

Country Netherlands
Province North Brabant
 • Total 93.13 km2 (35.96 sq mi)
 • Land 80.76 km2 (31.18 sq mi)
 • Water 12.38 km2 (4.78 sq mi)
Population (1 January 2007)
 • Total 65,454
 • Density 810/km2 (2,100/sq mi)
  Source: Time zone CET (UTC+1)
 • Summer (DST) CEST (UTC+2)

Bergen op Zoom (Dutch pronunciation: [ˈbɛrɣən ɔp soːm]) is a municipality and a city located in the south of the Netherlands.


The city was built on a place where two types of soil meet: sandy soil and marine clay. The sandy soil pushed against the marine clay, accumulating and forming hills over several centuries. People called those hills the Brabantse Wal, literally meaning "wall of Brabant". Zoom refers to the border of this wall and bergen in Dutch means mountains or hills. The name has nothing to do with the little channel the ‘Zoom’ which was later built through Bergen op Zoom.


Bergen op Zoom was granted city status probably in 1212. In 1287 the city and its surroundings became a lordship as it was separated from the lordship of Breda. The lordship was elevated to a margraviate in 1559. Several families ruled Bergen op Zoom in succession until 1795, although the title was only nominal since at least the seventeenth century.

During the early modern period, Bergen op Zoom was a very strong fortress and one of the main armories and arsenals of the United Provinces. It had a remarkable natural defensive site, surrounded as it was by marshes and easily-floodable polders. Furthermore, it could receive reinforcements and supplies by sea, if the besieging army did not have a fleet to blockade its port.

Due to these features, the city was one of the strategic points held by the Dutch during their revolt in the Eighty Years War. It was at that time besieged by Alessandro Farnese first in 1588, and by Ambrosio Spinola a second time in 1622. Both sieges were unsuccessful and Bergen op Zoom got the nickname La Pucelle or The Virgin as it was never sieged successfully.

In 1747, during the War of the Austrian Succession, the French army laid siege to it again. At that time, Bergen op Zoom had fortifications built in the beginning of the 17th Century by Menno van Coehoorn, with three forts surrounding the city and a canalized diversion of the Scheldt acting as a ditch around its walls. However, it had no second line of fortifications, nor any fortress. After seventy days of siege, the city was taken and thoroughly sacked; the garrison was slaughtered.

Trading town

During the reign of Jan II van Glymes (1417-1494), nicknamed ‘Jan metten Lippen’ which means Jan with the big lips, probably caused by an infection, an economic growth occurred. The big fairs that were held twice a year, in spring and fall, were known both known within the land as well as abroad. Merchants from whole Europe came to Bergen op Zoom to sell their goods.

Because of the major economic growth, the Sint-Gertrudischurch was enlarged. The enlargement was called the ‘Nieuw Werck’ but was never finished, because of the economic recession mid 16th century and it became a ruin. The economic recession was largely caused by the bad accessibility of the port, due to a number of floods in Zeeland and West-Brabant. Because of the great reliance on the port, the economic growth received a big blow. In addition, the modernization of trade techniques, like the permanent stock exchange instead of the fairs, which took place twice a year, also deteriorated the economy of Bergen op Zoom.

Nevertheless, these fairs kept existing till 1910. After the disappearance of the two big fairs, Bergen op Zoom still knows all kinds of little fairs and events.


During the Eighty Years War, Bergen op Zoom chose the side of republic, and, simultaneously, for Protestantism. The Catholic part of Bergen op Zoom adapted themselves or moved to the surrounding countryside, which largely stated Catholic. The inhabitants who chose to stay Catholic, went to church in secret barns and houses, since the Sint-Getrudischruch was appointed to the Protestant community.

Slowly, most the city council members of Bergen op Zoom became Protestant. This situation continued till the 18th century. After that, the Catholic part of Bergen op Zoom became bigger, and during the second part of the 18th century, majority of Bergen op Zoom was Catholic again. Although the Catholics enjoyed religious freedom during the French period in 1795-1814, the emancipation came later.

In 1832, a Catholic parish, the ‘Heilige Maagd ten Ophemeling’, was allowed to have their own church. In the same period, a synagogue for the Jewish community in Bergen op Zoom and surroundings was built. In 1972, the Protestant community, after the loss of many members, gave the Sint-Getrudischurch to the Catholic parish. Since the restoration of the Church, Catholic services were held again.

Population centres

  • Bergen op Zoom (population: 65,691, July 2006)

The city of Bergen op Zoom

The Markiezenhof Palace, built in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, houses a cultural centre and a museum with a picturesque courtyard, paintings, period rooms, and temporary exhibitions.

SABIC Innovative Plastics operates a major manufacturing facility in Bergen op Zoom.

Another major plant/employer in the city is Philip Morris.


Artists in Bergen op Zoom

Bergen op Zoom has always housed many artists. Some of them are, in chronological order:

  • Jacob Obrecht (1457–1505, composer),
  • Desiderius Erasmus (1466–1536, humanist, philosopher, author),
  • Lowijs Porquin (1511–1573, author),
  • Abel Grimmer (1570–1619, artist),
  • Samuel de Swaef (1597–1636, printer, writer),
  • Gerrit Houckgeest (1600–1661, painter),
  • Marcus Zuerius Boxhorn (1612–1653, historian, author),
  • Bernardus Bosch (1746–1803, politician, publisher, author),
  • Lodewijk van Deijssel (1864–1952, critic, novelist),
  • Margo Scharten-Antink (1868–1957, novelist),
  • Willem van Dort (1875–1922, painter),
  • A. M. de Jong (1888–1943, politician, novelist),
  • Anton van Duinkerken (1903–1968, poet, critic)

International relations

Twin towns — sister cities

Bergen op Zoom is twinned with:

See also

Further reading

  • A Ballad on the Taking of Bergen-Op Zoom. London: M. Cooper, 1747.
  • Merck toch hoe sterck. The anthem of the city: A. Valerius, 1626.
  • Bot, Marie-Louise, and Gouke J. Bonsel. The Bergen Op Zoom-Quality of Life Survey: A Dutch Contribution to the Collaborative Study of the European Common Core Group. Rotterdam: Dept. of Public Health and Social Medicine/Institute for Medical Technology Assessment, Erasmus University Rotterdam, 1989. ISBN 90-72245-45-8
  • Edler, Florence. Attendance at the Fairs of Bergen-Op-Zoom 1538-1544. Bergen op Zoom: [s.n.], 1936.
  • Smyth, James Carmichael. Plans of the Attacks Upon Antwerp, Bergen-Op-Zoom, Cambray, Peronne, Maubeuge, Landrecy, Marienbourg, Philippeville and Rocroy, By the British and Prussian Armies in the Campaigns of 1814 and of 1815. 1817.
  • 1939-1945 The War Dead of the Commonwealth: The Register of the Names of Those Who Fell and Are Buried in Cemeteries in the Netherlands : Bergen Op Zoom Canadian War Cemetery. Maidenhead: Commonwealth War Graves Commission, 1994.

External links

  • Official website
  • Art project in the public space of Bergen op Zoom, at Erasmuspc, international network for cities and culture
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