The castle of Egmond in prosperity, painted by Gillis de Saen. De Saen made the painting just after the devastation of 1573. It gives a relatively reliable picture of what the castle looked like, however some aspects are incorrect. For example, the windows in the keep are depicted too large. The painting has hung since 1968 in the Belgian town of Zottegem, where Lamoral I lived and was buried from 1566.
The rebuilding of the Castle
Committee had serious plans in 1991
Published: Jan. 7, 2022
Source: Reformatory newspaper of April 4, 1991
Impossible! That is the first thing that comes to mind when you see the foundations of Egmond aan den Hoef Castle. Impossible to rebuild such a monument -of which there are not even accurate building plans anymore!- in our time from the ground up. And yet this is being considered very seriously. Not by fantasists, but by men of repute. Egmonditis has ignited many residents of the beautiful residential community behind the white top of the dunes. Mayor E. J. Brommet readily admits that he was one of the first victims and since then has been doing everything possible to spread the “disease” as widely as possible….
It is unfairly divided in our little country. Some villages have nothing to offer visitors and others really seem to have everything. Egmond, with its 11,000 inhabitants, is one such village in the latter category. The three residential centers, Egmond aan den Hoef, Egmond-Binnen and Egmond aan Zee, together do have just about everything a pampered tourist could demand. Picturesque buildings, cozy streets, vast natural areas, beaches, sea and a history that will make lovers lick their fingers.
But that very history has remained somewhat unknown due to all the tourist violence that has engulfed this village. History is not something you usually look for in a fashionable seaside resort. History lovers can visit cities like Amsterdam and The Hague. And speaking of castles, names like Loevestein, Muiderslot and Haarzuilens naturally bubble to the surface. You don’t have to go to Egmond for that, do you?
Still. Indeed, Egmond aan den Hoef has within its borders the foundations of -probably- the largest fortified fortress the Netherlands has ever known: the Castle of Egmond, also known to some as the Slot aan (or: on) den Hoef. During its glory days a fortress three or four times the size of the Muiderslot!
This castle has been home to the famous Van Egmond family for centuries. A lineage that helped lay the foundation of the Republic of the United Netherlands. Every child has heard in school the story of the beheading of Count Lamoraal of Egmond on the scaffold in Brussels and how he was taken from his life there along with Hoorne because -despite being a Roman Catholic- he was allegedly not loyal enough to the Spanish government. Centuries later, even the great Beethoven was inspired by this horrific event when writing his famous “Egmond” overture.
Just where its glorious history is rooted, there is little of that history left to see. As part of an employment project, in 1933-1934 the foundation of the old castle was raised back to ground level and the moat restored to its former glory, but such a thing does not become a real attraction. The Egmond people themselves like it best that the moat can be used as an ice rink in winter.
People who uttered the word rebuild were looked at somewhat piteously. One simple gesture of thumb and forefinger was enough to nip any initiative in the bud. Until some time ago…
The history of Egmond Castle began as early as 922, when the King of Lorraine invested a certain Diederik with the county of Holland. This Diederik founded a wooden monastery near present-day Egmond, which was soon replaced by a stone building, which later grew into the very famous Egmond Abbey.
Since monks cannot live without bread either, they provided themselves with all kinds of means of livelihood. However, these possessions soon grew so large that one of the abbots appointed stewards to help him manage the earthly goods. One such steward, a certain Berwout, had apparently rendered such good service to the abbot that he was appointed steward for life and given a farmstead and six dwellings on loan.
According to the chronicles, Berwout’s son completed. Dodo of Egmond, in 1170 the Slot aan den Hoef, beginning a period of never-ending disputes between the monks and the castle dwellers. The castle was destroyed by fire many times over the years, but each time it was rebuilt as a front against the West Frisians.
In 1473 the lockholder of Egmond was appointed stadholder of Gelderland and in 1486 he was additionally given the position of stadholder of Holland. Nothing and no one seemed to be able to stop the rise of Egmond and its inhabitants anymore.
However, fame and power came to an abrupt end when the highly influential Lamoral of Egmond was beheaded on the scaffold in Brussels in 1568. His goods were forfeited and the magnificent castle fell into disrepair.
On June 7, 1578, the leader of the Beggars, Sonoy, had the castle set on fire. With this, the Beggars wanted to deprive the Spanish of any possible foothold on land. In 1607, the county of Egmond came into the hands of the States of Holland. In 1798, all that was left of the castle was sold to wreckers. Only the bell tower remained standing. Since there was no more money for maintenance, however, even this piece of the old castle soon fell prey to grinding by the ravages of time.
In 1836, almost everything was cleared away. Only a piece of the bell tower’s wall, like a chunk of solidified history, testifies to this day of all that happened in this place.
And now, suddenly, in 1991, a committee is launching serious plans to resurrect the old castle. And that is mainly the work of the -originally Amsterdam- artist Bob Denneboom, 81 years old and a resident of Egmond for several years. One day he walked in the vicinity of the castle ruins and became more and more annoyed by the dead foundations that just lay there quietly. “I wondered why we do throw away billions of guilders every year on all sorts of nonsensical things and why there would be no money to rebuild something as beautiful as this castle,” he recounted.
“And since I am rather pleasantly disturbed, I decided to seek out Mayor Brommet to have a talk with him about this matter. I went to him on the firm assumption that mayors are serious people who come up with a lot of serious questions. But to my great surprise, those questions did not come. On the contrary, Brommet was blazingly enthusiastic”.
Brommet: “Yes, that’s right. After all, I had been thinking a lot about it myself and when Denneboom had had his say, I couldn’t help but admit that I was already running with plans myself. We then had a little talk and that led to the decision to call a meeting where we would drop it the idea. That happened, about 30 people gathered and overall the plans were very well received. A number of people then formed a committee to further explore options for rebuilding. I myself have expressed my willingness to chair that committee in a personal capacity.”
Denneboom: “So there really aren’t all people like me in it. Because yes, for an artist to walk around with such plans, people can still understand. But if the mayor also joins in… And what about a bank manager, for example? That’s someone who can think business, right? Well and he too is participating! Terribly excited! We are now really only waiting for one thing and that is the approval of the City Council to proceed.”
Mayor Brommet admits that the council’s decision is all-important. “If the City Council does not want to cooperate with the plans, we will simply stop. Because then we can’t do anything because the land is owned by the municipality. Of course, as a council, you don’t decide something so drastic in an afternoon. Because such a project has huge implications for Egmond. Just consider the impact of the increase in tourists. Can our village handle that? All things you have to weigh well”.
However, he himself does not doubt the outcome of that consideration. “Indeed, technically it is certainly feasible, although I honestly admit to not knowing too much about all that stuff. We all need to hire experts to look at the various parts of the plan. And that costs money and we just don’t have that. We are already getting several inquiries from people who want to become donors, but we are holding off because we want to know what the council thinks first.
As for usefulness, I certainly think such a project will be a huge boost for Egmond’s tourism industry. Indeed, during bad weather, people then have an excellent alternative to the sea and the beach. And day-trippers can also be offered a truly complete “day out” with such an attraction within its borders. Pretty good for our village, where 45 percent of the economy runs on tourism.”
And then there’s the money. Very rough calculations by the committee arrive at a cost of some 30 to 35 million guilders, “‘t may be a million less,” said an optimistic Denneboom, “but what is a million more or less? And 35 million is also nothing for such a world-class stunt if you look at it right! There are so untold numbers of funds that can be tapped, you don’t know about that as a layman!”
Brommet also certainly sees opportunities to raise the millions. “By the way, I would like to emphasize again that it is not the intention of Egmond Municipality to put large sums of money into such a project. That could lead to increased burdens and that is not our intention.
We prefer to obtain the money from grants, donations and by encouraging visits to the rebuilding project -at entrance fees. In much the same way as happened when the VOC ship “the Batavia” was built near Lelystad.
Furthermore, you can make the rebuilding of the castle a kind of training and employment project. This reduces costs, and through such a project, the experience of castle building and all related craft work can be revived or brought to life.”
Should the Egmond City Council give the green light, the initiators say a foundation should be set up as soon as possible to take responsibility for implementing the project, supported by a committee of recommendation. The current Rebuilding Committee would prefer that one of the members of the Royal House become (honorary) chairman of such a recommending committee. This was to highlight the ties that existed between our royal family and the Egmond family.
Because to govern is to foresee, the members of the rebuilding committee have also already given intense thought to the operation of the castle once it is rebuilt. Brommet: “We then think of a combination of cultural-historical and commercial activities. Indeed, if we manage to bring together historical collections about Egmond, including the finds made during the restoration of the foundations, in the rebuilt castle, then it is safe to speak of a museum of national significance. In addition, our thoughts are on cultural and commercial activities, such as an exclusive hotel, hospitality options, conference opportunities and even renting certain spaces to large companies.
In this regard, we have a good example. The castle chapel, which stands near the castle’s foundations, has been running virtually without donations for years. We offer opportunities there for both church and civil weddings and then dinner in a medieval atmosphere. The interest is huge!”
Although skeptical comments are of course unavoidable, Denneboom refuses to speak of a castle in the air. “I’m 81 years old now, but I really hope to live to see the rebuilding. If you see how many enthusiastic phone calls I’ve been getting the last few days. Also from professionals!”
However, Egmond amateur historian Jan Lute does not expect such a large-scale project to be completed in a short time. “You have to be realistic, and then you see that it took centuries to build a castle like this all the way up. Therefore, if the plans go through at all, I do not expect this to be settled in a few years. You just can’t. You should not make it a rush job. It may well last one or more generations”.
Brommet agrees. “Past plans to rebuild the castle have often fallen through due to lack of money to rebuild the entire property. Well, we are also already satisfied with a first phase. If there is just one more piece standing first, then the rest will come too!”
Denneboom: “I quite understand that they want to slow me down a bit. After all, they are still young, but I would like to live it and therefore, I am in a hurry. Moreover, history has shown that sometimes you do have to push a bit to get certain things off the ground…”.