Castle of the Week 14 – Muiderslot

The Muiderslot is located at the mouth of the river Vecht, some 15 kilometers southeast of Amsterdam, where it flows into what used to be the Zuiderzee. It’s one of the better known castles in Holland and featured in many a television show set in the Middle Ages. The most famous of these must be Floris, tales about a Dutch knight and his saracen friend Sindela.

The history of the Muiderslot (Castle Muiden, where ‘muiden’ means rivermouth) begins with Count Floris V who built a stone castle at the mouth of the river back in 1280, when he gained command over an area that used to be part of the See of Utrecht. The River Vecht was the trade route to Utrecht, one of the most important tradetowns of that age. It’s a small wonder the castle was used to enforce a toll on the traders. It’s a relatively small castle, measuring only 32 by 35 metres with brick walls well over 1.5 metres thick. A large moat surrounds the castle.

Count Floris was captured whilst hunting by some of his lords who possibly intended to deliver him to his rival, the Prince-Bishop of Utrecht. He was killed when it seemed loyal troops might free him. Several days after his death the castle was razed to the ground by Willem van Mechelen, the Bishop-Prince of Utrecht.

A hundred years later, in 1370, the castle was rebuilt on the same spot according to the same plan, by Albrecht, Duke of Bavaria, who at that time was also the Count of Holland and Zeeland.

The next famous owner of the castle shows up in the 16th century, when P.C. Hooft (1581-1647), a famous author, poet and historian took over sheriff and bailiff duties for the area (Het Gooiland). For 39 years he spent his summers in the castle and invited friends, scholars, poets and painters such as Vondel, Huygens, Bredero and Maria Tesselschade, over for visits. This group became known as the Muiderkring. He also extended the garden and the (plum-) orchard, while at the same time an outer earthworks defense system was put into place.

At the end of the 18th century, the castle was first used as a prison, then abandoned and became derelict. Further neglect caused it to be offered for sale in 1825, with the purpose of it being demolished. Only intervention by King Willem I prevented this. Another 70 years went by until enough money was gathered to restore the castle in its former glory.

The Muiderslot is currently a national museum (Rijksmuseum). The insides of the castle, its rooms and kitchens, have been restored to look like they did in the 17th century and several of the rooms now house a nice collection of arms and armour. During summer falcons are kept in the castle and the tour offers some wonderful insights into medieval life and the origin of quite a few of our more popular sayings.

The pictures on this page are courtesy of yours truly, Jayhawk, with the exception of the one showing the model of the castle, which is the property of Alexander I. For fullsized and more of my pictures follow this link