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The Old Rhine in Leiden appears as a gracht


Coat of arms
Coordinates: 52°10′N 4°29′E / 52.16, 4.49
Country Netherlands
Province South Holland
 • Mayor Henri Lenferink
 • Total 23.16 km2 (8.94 sq mi)
 • Land 21.99 km2 (8.49 sq mi)
 • Water 1.16 km2 (0.45 sq mi)
Population (1 April 2011)
 • Total 117,914
 • Density 5,100/km2 (13,000/sq mi)
  Source: CBS, Statline.
Time zone CET (UTC+1)
 • Summer (DST) CEST (UTC+2)
Post code range 2300–2334
Area code(s) 071

Leiden (Dutch pronunciation: [ˈlɛi̯.də(n)]  ( listen); in English and archaic Dutch also Leyden) is a city and municipality in the Dutch province of South Holland. The municipality of Leiden has a population of about 120,000, but the city forms one densely connected urban area with its suburbs Oegstgeest, Leiderdorp, Voorschoten, Valkenburg, Rijnsburg and Katwijk, which have about 254,000 inhabitants combined. The larger Leiden agglomeration counts 332,000 inhabitants which makes it the sixth major agglomeration in the Netherlands. Leiden is located on the Old Rhine, at a distance of some 20 kilometers from The Hague to its south and some 40 kilometers from Amsterdam to its north. The recreational area of the Kaag Lakes (Kagerplassen) lies just to the northeast of Leiden.

A university city since 1575, Leiden houses Leiden University and Leiden University Medical Centre. It is twinned with Oxford, the location of England's oldest university.


It is true that Leiden is an old city, its connection with Roman Lugdunum Batavorum is true though it is actually near the close-by town of Katwijk,[1] whereas the Roman settlement near modern Leiden was called Matilo. However, there was a Roman fortress in Leiden in the 4th century.

Windmill museum De Valk

Leiden formed on an artificial hill (today called the Burcht van Leiden) at the confluence of the rivers Oude and Nieuwe Rijn (Old and New Rhine). In the oldest reference to this, from circa 860, the settlement was called Leithon. The landlord of Leiden, situated in a stronghold on the hill, was initially subject to the Bishop of Utrecht but around 1100 the burgraves became subject to the county of Holland. This county got its name in 1101 from a domain near the stronghold: Holtland or Holland.

Leiden was sacked in 1047 by Emperor Henry III. Early 13th century, Ada, Countess of Holland took refuge here when she was fighting in a civil war against her uncle, William I, Count of Holland. He besieged the stronghold and captured Ada.

Leiden received city rights in 1266. In 1389, its population had grown to about 4000 persons.

Siege of 1420[]

In 1420, during the Hook and Cod wars, Duke John of Bavaria along with his army marched from Gouda in the direction of Leiden in order to conquer the city since Leiden did not pay the new Count of Holland Jacqueline, Countess of Hainaut, his niece and only daughter of Count William VI of Holland. The army was well equipped and had some guns.

Burgrave Filips of Wassenaar and the other local Hoekse noblemen assumed that the duke would besiege Leiden first and send small units out to conquer the surrounding citadels. But John of Bavaria chose to attack the citadels first.

He rolled the cannons with his army but one too heavy went per ship. By firing at the walls and gates with iron balls the citadels fell one by one. Within a week John of Bavaria conquered the castles of Poelgeest, Ter Does, Hoichmade, de Zijl, ter Waerd, Warmond and de Paddenpoel.

On 24 June the army appeared before the walls of Leiden. On 17 August 1420, after a two-month siege the city surrendered to John of Bavaria. The burgrave Filips of Wassenaar was stripped of his offices and rights and lived out his last years in captivity.

16th to 18th centuries[]

Otto van Veen: Relief of Leiden (1574), Inundated meadows allow the Dutch fleet access to the Spanish infantry positions.

17th-century houses along the Herengracht.


The 1852 Sijthoff printing office, Leiden

Leiden's west gate, the Morspoort

Leiden's east gate, the Zijlpoort

The Singel at night, also chimney of the Light Factory

Leiden flourished in the 16th and 17th century. At the close of the 15th century the weaving establishments (mainly broadcloth) of Leiden were very important, and after the expulsion of the Spaniards Leiden cloth, Leiden baize and Leiden camlet were familiar terms. In the same period, Leiden developed an important printing and publishing industry. The influential printer Christoffel Plantijn lived there at one time. One of his pupils was Lodewijk Elzevir (1547–1617), who established the largest bookshop and printing works in Leiden, a business continued by his descendants through 1712 and the name subsequently adopted (in a variant spelling) by contemporary publisher Elsevier.

In 1572, the city sided with the Dutch revolt against Spanish rule and played an important role in the Eighty Years' War. Besieged from May until October 1574 by the Spanish, Leiden was relieved by the cutting of the dikes, thus enabling ships to carry provisions to the inhabitants of the flooded town. As a reward for the heroic defence of the previous year, the University of Leiden was founded by William I of Orange in 1575. Yearly on 3 October, the end of the siege is still celebrated in Leiden. Tradition tells that the citizens were offered the choice between a university and a certain exemption from taxes and chose the university. The siege is notable also for being the first instance in Europe of the issuance of paper money, with paper taken from prayer books being stamped using coin dies when silver ran out.[2]

Leiden is also known as the place where the Pilgrims (as well as some of the first settlers of New Amsterdam)[3][4] lived (and operated a printing press)[5] for a time in the early 17th century before their departure to Massachusetts and New Amsterdam in the New World.[6]

In the 17th century, Leiden prospered, in part because of the impetus to the textile industry by refugees from Flanders. While the city had lost about a third of its 15,000 citizens during the siege of 1574, it quickly recovered to 45,000 inhabitants in 1622, and may have come near to 70,000 circa 1670. During the Dutch Golden Era, Leiden was the second largest city of Holland, after Amsterdam.

From the late 17th century onwards Leiden slumped, mainly due to the decline of the cloth industries. In the beginning of the 19th century the baize manufacture was altogether given up, although industry remained central to Leiden economy. This decline is painted vividly by the fall in population. The population of Leiden had sunk to 30,000 between 1796 and 1811, and in 1904 was 56,044.

From the 17th to the early 19th century, Leiden was the publishing place of one of the most important contemporary journals, Nouvelles Extraordinaires de Divers Endroits, known also as Gazette de Leyde.

19th and 20th century[]

On 12 January 1807, a catastrophe struck the city when a boat loaded with 17,400 kg of gunpowder blew up in the middle of Leiden. 151 persons were killed, over 2000 were injured and some 220 homes were destroyed. King Louis Bonaparte personally visited the city to provide assistance to the victims. Although located in the center of the city, the area destroyed remained empty for many years. In 1886 the space was turned into a public park.

In 1842, the railroad from Leiden to Haarlem was inaugurated and one year later the railway to Den Haag was completed, resulting in some social and economic improvement. Perhaps the most important piece of Dutch history contributed by Leiden was the Constitution of the Netherlands. Johan Rudolf Thorbecke (1798–1872) wrote the Dutch Constitution in April 1848 in his house at Garenmarkt 9 in Leiden.

Leiden's reputation as the "city of books" continued through the 19th century with the establishment of publishing dynasties by Evert Jan Brill and Albertus Willem Sijthoff.[7] Sijthoff, who rose to prominence in the trade of translated books, wrote a letter in 1899 to Queen Wilhelmina regarding his opposition to becoming a signatory to the Berne Convention for the Protection of Literary and Artistic Works. He felt that international copyright restrictions would stifle the Dutch publishing industry.[8]

Leiden began to expand beyond its 17th century moats around 1896 and the number of citizens surpassed 50,000 in 1900. After 1920, new industries were established in the city, such as the canning and metal industries. During World War II, Leiden was hit hard by Allied bombardments. The areas surrounding the railway station and Marewijk were almost completely destroyed.

Leiden today[]

The city's biggest and most popular annual festival is 3 Oktober or "3 October," which celebrates the end of the Spanish siege of 1574. It typically takes place over the course of four days and includes parades, a hutspot feast, historical reenactments, a carnival and other events. In recent years, however, the annual festival has drawn criticism for drunken and unruly behavior from attendees.[9]

Leiden has important functions as a shopping and trade center for communities around the city. The University of Leiden is famous for its many developments including Snells law (by Willebrord Snellius), the famous Leyden jar, a capacitor made from a glass jar, invented in Leiden by Pieter van Musschenbroek in 1746. Another development was in cryogenics: Heike Kamerlingh Onnes (1913 Nobel prize winner in physics) liquefied helium for the first time (1908) and later managed to reach a temperature of less than one degree above the absolute minimum. Albert Einstein also spent some time at Leiden University during his early to middle career.

The city also houses the Eurotransplant, the international organization responsible for the mediation and allocation of organ donation procedures in Austria, Belgium, Croatia, Germany, Luxembourg, the Netherlands and Slovenia. Leiden also houses the headquarters of the European Aeronautic Defence and Space Company N.V. (EADS), a global pan-European aerospace and defence corporation and a leading defence and military contractor worldwide. The group includes Airbus, the leading manufacturer of commercial aircraft worldwide.

Rivers, canals and parks[]

The two branches of the Old Rhine, which enter Leiden on the east, unite in the centre of the town. The town is further intersected by numerous small canals with tree-bordered quays. On the west side of the town, the Hortus Botanicus and other gardens extend along the old Singel, or outer canal. The Leidse Hout park, which contains a small deer park, lies on the northwest border with Oegstgeest. The Van der Werf Park is named after the mayor Pieter Adriaansz. van der Werff, who defended the town against the Spaniards in 1574. The town was beleaguered for months and many died from famine. The open space for the park was formed by the accidental explosion of a ship loaded with gunpowder in 1807, which destroyed hundreds of houses, including that of the Elsevier family of printers.

Buildings of interest[]

Because of the economic decline from the 17th to the early 20th century , much of the 16th and 17th century town centre is still intact. It is reportedly the second largest 17th century town centre in the Netherlands, the largest being Amsterdam's town centre.


At the strategically important junction of the two arms of the Old Rhine stands the old castle de Burcht, a circular tower built on an earthen mound. The mound probably was a refuge against high water before a small wooden fortress was built on top of it in the 11th century. The citadel is a so-called motte-and-bailey castle. Of Leiden's old city gates only two are left, the Zijlpoort and the Morspoort, both dating from the end of the 17th century. Apart from one small watch tower on the Singel nothing is left of the town's city walls. Another former fortification is the Gravensteen. Built as a fortress in the 13th century it has since served as house, library and prison. Presently it is one of the University's buildings.


Hooglandse Kerk, Leiden

The chief of Leiden's numerous churches are the Hooglandse Kerk (or the church of St Pancras, built in the 15th century and containing a monument to Pieter Adriaansz. van der Werff) and the Pieterskerk (church of St Peter (1315) with monuments to Scaliger, Boerhaave and other famous scholars. From a historical perspective the Marekerk is interesting too. Arent van 's Gravesande designed that church in 1639. Other fine examples of his work in Leiden are in the Stedelijk Museum De Lakenhal (the municipal museum of fine arts), and the Bibliotheca Thysiana. The growing town needed another church and the Marekerk was the first church to be built in Leiden (and in Holland) after the Reformation. It is an example of Dutch Classicism. In the drawings by Van 's Gravesande the pulpit is the centrepiece of the church. The pulpit is modelled after the one in the Nieuwe Kerk at Haarlem (designed by Jacob van Campen). The building was first used in 1650, and is still in use.

University buildings[]

The 1860 Leiden Observatory, during restoration (2010)

The town centre contains many buildings that are in use by the University of Leiden. The Academy Building is housed in a former 16th century convent. Among the institutions connected with the university are the national institution for East Indian languages, ethnology and geography; the botanical gardens, founded in 1587; the observatory (1860); the museum of antiquities (Rijksmuseum van Oudheden); and the ethnographical museum, of which P. F. von Siebold's Japanese collections was the nucleus (Rijksmuseum voor Volkenkunde). The Bibliotheca Thysiana occupies an old Renaissance building of the year 1655. It is especially rich in legal works and vernacular chronicles. Noteworthy are also the many special collections at Leiden University Library among which those of the Society of Dutch Literature (1766) and the collection of casts and engravings. In recent years the university has built the Bio Science Park at the city's outskirts to accommodate the Science departments.

Other buildings[]

Some other interesting buildings are the town hall (Stadhuis), a 16th century building that was badly damaged by a fire in 1929 but has its Renaissance façade designed by Lieven de Key still standing; the Gemeenlandshuis van Rijnland (1596, restored in 1878); De Waag (weigh house in Dutch), built by Pieter Post; the former court-house (Gerecht); a corn-grinding windmill, now home to a museum (Molen de Valk) (1743); the old gymnasium (Latijnse School) (1599) and the city carpenter's yard and wharf (Stadstimmerwerf) (1612), both built by Lieven de Key (c. 1560–1627). Another building of interest is the "pesthuis", which was built at that time just outside the city for curing patients suffering the bubonic plague. However, after it was built the feared disease did not occur in the Netherlands anymore so it was never used for its original purpose, it now serves as the entrance of Naturalis, one of the largest natural history museums in the world.

Public transport[]

Topographic map image of Leiden (2011)

Bus lines[]

  • Connexxion Region West:[10]
    • Bus stops and lines in Leiden:[11] (links to schedules by stop and line)
    • Bus lines with schedules by line in the region[12]


  • Railway stations: Leiden Centraal, Leiden Lammenschans, De Vink

To plan a train journey follow the link[13]

Leiden is on the planned route of the RijnGouweLijn, the Netherland's first Light rail project. This project has, however been shelved for the foreseeable time.

Notable inhabitants[]

See also People from Leiden

The following is a selection of important Leidenaren throughout history:

  • Rembrandt van Rijn, 1606–1669, painter.
  • Ludolph van Ceulen, 1540–1610, mathematician, computed Pi.
  • Marinus van der Lubbe, 1909–1934, accused of setting fire to the Reichstag in Berlin.
  • Herman Boerhaave, 1668–1738, humanist and physician.
  • Jan Steen, 1626–1679, painter.
  • Gegard Mousasi, 1985–, Professional MMA fighter of Armenian descent.[14]
  • Johann Bachstrom, 1688–1742, writer, scientist and Lutheran theologian.
  • Bernhard Siegfried Albinus, 1697–1770, anatomist.
  • Love Brewster, 1611-1650/1, pilgrim.
  • William Brewster, 1567–1644, pilgrim.
  • William Bradford, 1590–1657, pilgrim, leader of the American Plymouth Colony in Massachusetts.
  • Gerard Dou, 1613–1675, painter.
  • Jouke de Vries, 1960, professor at Leiden university, runner-up candidate for the PVDA elections in 2002 (lost to Wouter Bos), currently resides at Leiden.
  • Cornelius Engelbrechtszoon, 1468–1533, painter.
  • Jan van Goyen, 1596–1656, painter.
  • John of Leiden, 1509?–1536, leader of the Anabaptist Münster Rebellion.
  • Philipp Franz Bathasar von Siebold, 1796–1866, physician, collector, 'Japanologist'.
  • Lucas van Leyden, 1494–1533, engraver and painter.
  • Gabriel Metsu, 1629–1667, painter.
  • Frans Post, 1612–1680, painter.
  • Pieter de Ring, ca 1615–1660, painter
  • Theo van Doesburg, 1883–1931, painter, architect, writer.
  • Willebrord Snell, 1580–1626, astronomer and mathematician.
  • Johannes Diderik van der Waals, 1837–1923, physicist.
  • Hendrik Lorentz, 1853–1928, physicist.
  • Heike Kamerlingh Onnes, 1853–1926, physicist.
  • Pieter Zeeman, 1865–1943, physicist.
  • Willem de Sitter, 1872–1934, mathematician, physicist, astronomer.
  • Paul Ehrenfest, 1880–1933, physicist.
  • Hendrik Casimir, 1909–2000, physicist.
  • Jan Hendrik Oort, 1900–1992, astronomer.
  • Willem Einthoven, 1860–1927, physician, physiologist.
  • Pieter Adriaansz. van der Werff, 1529–1604, mayor of Leiden.
  • William II, 1228–1256, count of Holland, later also king of Germany.
  • Gottfried van Swieten, 1733–1803, diplomat, friendship and collaboration with several great composers.
  • Nina Foch, 1924–2008, actress/ acting teacher.
  • Armin Van Buuren, 1976–, music/ DJ.

Town twinning[]

Leiden's twin towns are:

  • Nicaragua Juigalpa, Nicaragua
  • Germany Krefeld, Germany
  • United Kingdom Oxford, England (United Kingdom)
  • Poland Toruń, Poland


  • The coat of arms of Leiden is two red keys, crossed in an X-shape on a white background. These keys are those to the gates of heaven held by St.Peter, for whom a large church in the city center is named. Because of this coat of arms, Leiden is referred to as the "Sleutelstad" ("the key city").
  • For a time Leiden held the title "The Coldest Place on Earth" because of the developments in cryogenics in a laboratory there. Heike Kamerlingh Onnes (1913 Nobel prize winner in physics) liquefied helium for the first time (1908), and later managed to reach a temperature of less than one degree above Absolute zero.
  • The Norwegian cheese "nøkkelost" ("key cheese") is named after the keys in coat of arms of Leyden, as it is a variation of Leyden cheese.
  • The following places and things are named after this city:
    • Leyden, New York, USA
    • Leyden, Massachusetts, USA
    • Leyden High School District 212 in Franklin Park, Illinois, USA.
    • Leiden scale, for measuring extreme low temperatures.
    • Factor V Leiden is named after the city of Leiden where it was discovered in 1994.
    • The Leyden jar, a capacitor made from a glass jar, was invented here by Pieter van Musschenbroek in 1746. It was actually first invented by Ewald Georg von Kleist the year before, but the name "Leyden jar" stuck.

Adjacent municipalities[]



See also[]

  • Leiden Classical A distributed computing project
  • Wireless Leiden
  • Oudt Leyden, former Michelin starred restaurant


  1. ^ Jona Lendering. "Towns in Germania Inferior: Lugdunum (Brittenburg)". Retrieved 11 June 2010. 
  2. ^
  3. ^ "The New York Genealogical and Biographical Society – Access Denied". Retrieved 11 June 2010. 
  4. ^ [1]
  5. ^ "The Pilgrim Press". 18 May 2005. Retrieved 11 June 2010. 
  6. ^ "The Dutch Door to America". April 1999. Retrieved 28 November 2011. 
  7. ^ "History: Leiden, city of books". Burgersdijk & Niermans. Retrieved 29 August 2010. 
  8. ^ "The Netherlands and the Berne Convention". The Publishers' circular and booksellers' record of British and foreign literature, Vol. 71. Sampson Low, Marston & Co.. 1899. p. 597. Retrieved 29 August 2010. 
  9. ^ "The Horrors of 3 Oktober". Another World Blog. Retrieved 7 October 2011. 
  10. ^ [2]
  11. ^ [3]
  12. ^ [4]
  13. ^ Tijd : Vertrek Aankomst. "Dienstverlening voor iedereen die met de trein reist. " NS voor reizigers " NS reizigers". Retrieved 11 June 2010. 
  14. ^ "Middleweight Rankings – MMA WEEKLY – Mixed Martial Arts & UFC News, Photos, Rankings & more". Mma Weekly. 2 June 2010. Retrieved 11 June 2010. 

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Coordinates: 52°10′N 4°29′E / 52.167, 4.483

This page uses content from the English language Wikipedia. The original content was at Leiden. The list of authors can be seen in the page history. As with this Familypedia wiki, the content of Wikipedia is available under the Creative Commons License.