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Middelburg

Middelburg is a municipality and a city in the south-western Netherlands and the capital of the province of Zeeland. It is situated in the Midden-Zeeland region. It has a population of about 48,000.

History of Middelburg
Topographic map image of Middelburg, 2011. Click to enlarge.The city of Middelburg dates back possibly to the late 8th century or early 9th century. The first mention of Middelburg was as one of three fortified towns (i.e., borgs) erected on Walcheren (then an island) to guard against Viking raids. In 844 a monastery was built on the site, which remained an active Catholic foundation until the Reformation. Foundations for Middelburg's "stately and picturesque" cathedral (one of only two pre-Reformation cathedrals in The Netherlands, along with St. Martin's in Utrecht) were first laid in the 10th century; additional construction continued through the Middle Ages.

Middelburg was granted city rights in 1217. During the Middle Ages, it became an important trading centre in the commerce between England and the rising cities of Flanders. The town continued to gain in power and prestige during the 13th and 14th centuries. In the Eighty Years' War, the northern provinces of the original Low Countries won their independence from their former Spanish Habsburg rulers and formed The Netherlands, a Protestant state. Later, in the 17th century (the Dutch Golden Age), Middelburg became, after Amsterdam, the most important center for the East India Company of Republic of the Seven United Netherlands (VOC) or Dutch East India Company.

Middelburg played an important role in 17th century slave trade.

Samuel Ben Israel, son of Menasseh Ben Israel, is buried in Middelburg at the Sephardic burial site located at the 'Jodengang' outside the citywall. Menasseh Ben Israel negotiated with Cromwell the opening of England, and their colonies, to the Jews. Middelburg also has an Ashkenazic burial site, which is located at the Walensingel inside the city wall. In 1994 the synagogue was restored, as it was partially destroyed during the Second World War. This synagogue was the third one to be build in the Netherlands during the golden age. In the hall of the railwaystation there is a plaque of remembrance for the Jews of Zeeland who started their journey to the deathcamps from Middelburg train station.

About a third of the old city centre was bombed in the early phases of World War II, on May 17, 1940, by the German Luftwaffe, to compel the surrender of the Dutch Army forces in Zeeland. After the War, as much of the destroyed part of the old town center was rebuilt and restored along pre-War lines as possible. The city's archives, however, had been incinerated during the German bombardment.

Modern Middelburg has preserved and regained much of its historic and picturesque character. There are lavish 17th and 18th century merchant houses and storehouses standing along canals, of a similar style as found in cities like Amsterdam. The old city moats are still there, as is one of the city gates, the Koepoort Gate. Part of the 18th century moat and defence works, however, were demolished in the 19th century, to make way for a commercial canal which crosses Walcheren from Vlissingen to Veere. The medieval abbey is still in use today, as a museum and as the seat of the provincial government.

The painter Pieter Gaal, (1769–1819) was born and, after traveling over Europe to paint, settled and died here.

Another well-known citizen of Middelburg was the Admiral and explorer, Jacob Roggeveen, who was born in the city in 1659, and died there in 1729. Roggeveen discovered Easter Island/Rapa Nui in the South Pacific on Easter Sunday, April 6, 1722. Further discoveries on the same journey included islands of the Tuamotu group, now part of French Polynesia.

Cultural institutions

    Zeeuws Museum
    SBKM De Vleeshal
    Zeeuws Archief [1]
    Zeeuwse Bibliotheek
    Centrum Beeldende Kunst

Theaters and concerthalls

    Schouwburg
    Concertzaal Zeeland
    Spiegeltheater
    Minitheater
    Filmtheater Schuttershof

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