The town of Elburg

Elburg might be small but has a lot to offer: Hanseatic town, medieval fortified town, ancient fishing town situated at the former Zuider, a wonderful town for a fun day out…. Originally Elburg was the centre of trade of the parish of Doornspijk and developed a lot faster than the other villages in the surrounding area. Because of the trading position within the Hanseatic League and the strategic position in the far north of the Duchy Gelre, Elburg was granted town rights in 1233, although there was no question of a proper town at that moment.. This was different two centuries later. Prince Maurits defines Elburg and its defenseworks as ‘Een byzonder maexel’ (a remarkable construction) in 1592. Elburgs defensive works are amongst the most modern of our country. Few places in our country show the development of a fortified town as Elburg does.

From small settlement at the Zuiderzee to fortified town

Till the end of the thirteenth century Elburg is an elongated settlement. In the middle we find a rather wide street for those days, the Oldestraat (Ellestraat). From a document from 1331 we know that the old town was surrounded by a moat and probably also a wooden palisade. To protect the town against intruders and the advancing Zuiderzee, the Duke of Gelre orders his steward Arent thoe Boecop to replace the town in 1392. He designs a town of 415 by 250 metres with a streetplan consisting of straight streets which partly overlaps the old town of Elburg. The town consists of four quarters separated by a road (Jufferenstraat-Vischpoortstraat) and a waterway (de Beek) crossing the town. The design seamlessly matches the Golden Ratio, the ideal measures of everything, architecture included. In the extremely short period of four years the town is walled and a moat is dug around the new town wall.


During the course of the fifteenth century more advanced cannons were built and stone ammunition is replaced by iron projectiles. The thin town walls can no longer withstand this (modern) weaponry. Time for an update: a rampart around the town with an additional external moat. Cannon cellars were built inside the rampart, socalled casemates, in which artillery was placed.

From the middle of the 18th century the necessity of the defense works decreases and decay slowly takes over. After decades not much is left of the defense works. Of all the gates only the Fishgate (Vischpoort) survives the 19th century. Only because it has an important function as coastal light. In the middle of the 19th century rampart and battlements are lowered and a public garden is created. The rectangular shape of the fortification remains visible. The casemates can still be visited and the town wall is well maintained.