Middeleeuwse dwangburchten van West-Friesland en Alkmaar
[Home][Kaart][Introductie][English ][Burchten/kastelen chronologie][Overige objecten][Artikelen][Pre-Hollandse periode][Gegevens- en bronnen]

[Home] (In Dutch only)

The medieval castles of West-Frisia and Alkmaar
- English language pages-

Schagen Castle

Contents of this page:

[Back to contents][Home]



The name of the town of Schagen is derived from the ancient name Scagha, which probably means something like: "sticking out point or spit of land". Which points out the connection with the sea in these days. We encounter the name Scagha for the first time in a 10th century manuscript, pointing out the place with six farmsteads, which were transferred to the abbey of Egmond. The theory that there was a permanent settlement in that place, is confirmed by the presence of some important mounds in and round the town of Schagen.

-Lit. 35, G. van Berkel, K. Samplonius

The foundation

There are some contradictions about the foundation of the Castle of Schagen. However, we encounter Duke Albrecht (Albert) of Bavaria (1336-1404), Count of Holland and Lord of the manor Schagen, who had his residence in a fortified house. In the year 1440 this "House of Schagen" was rebuilt by Albrecht's bastard-son William "the Bastard of Holland" to be a defensible castle, surrounded by a castle-moat.

The Castle of Schagen. The front- and rear side of the Castle of Schagen. Engravings of C. Pronk and H. Spilman.
Engravings of C. Pronk and H. Spilman: The Castle of Schagen (1726). The front- and rear side of the Castle of Schagen.

William 'the bastard' was popular and had many professions. In spite of his busy activities he departed twice to the Holy Land from where he transported two marble pillars, which were included in the fireplace in the large hall of Schagen Castle.

The continuation

William died in 1473 and was succeeded by his son Albrecht van Schagen. Albrecht had a doubtful reputation, because of the siege of his castle. This happened because of his refusal to pay out his brothers' heritage. A Court's verdict was ignored by Albrecht. The castle was captured and Albrecht was arrested and taken prisoner in The Hague and later in the Medemblik Castle where he died in 1480.

For many generations Schagen Castle remained the property of the Bavaria-of Schagen family.

Schagen Castle as a place for executing the death penalty

Willem Wiggerz. from the village of Barsingerhorn was one of the leaders of the Protestant movement in Westfrisia. AD 1534 he was taken prisoner at the castle and beheaded eight days later.

When, during the 80 years' war, the Spanish fleet was defeated in 1573 in the 'Battle of the Zuiderzee', the castle was occupied by Diederic of Sonoy, deputy of William of Orange ('the Silent') in het northern regions of Holland. This was the beginning of a bloody episode in the castle's history. Like his opponent the Duke of Alva he organized a real terror surppressing the Catholics. In the first place he founded a tribunal in Alkmaar, which was settled later in Schagen Castle. This 'Bloedraad' ('Court of Blood') of Northern Holland, brought many Catholic Westfrisians to the torture chamber. William of Orange stopped these bloody activities of Sonoy, and appointed a committee of investigation. The case was submitted to the 'Hof van Holland' (Court of Holland), which released the other accused. Sonoy's cruelty was one of the reasons he lost the support of William of Orange's successor, Maurits, as well, wherafter Sonoy departed to England.

The castle's owner in those days, John of Schagen, finally joined the side of Orange getting an important function in the Staten of Holland. He died in 1618, after which he was succeeded by his son Albrecht of Schagen, followed by hís son William of Beieren-of Schagen, who was the last of his family who ruled the manor of Schagen. Because of many debts he necessarily had to sell the manor of Schagen in 1658.

Decay and saving the towers

William of Schagen died in September 1660. The castle's new owner was George van Cats. Because he married Justina of Nassau he had the honour to meet prince William III at his castle.

During George's residence, the castle was completely surrounded by a moat and situated between orchards, large gardens and planted alleys. The front-castle was situated at the northern side. Finally George initiated to neglect the castle, while the stony gates were demoulished and replaced by wooden ones.

AD 1675 the manor of Schagen and the castle were publicly auctioned. The highest bidder was Pieter Cornelisz. However, the sale did not become succesful, so the castle was finally auctioned in The Hague in 1676, where it was sold to an ancestor of the van Schagen-of Bavaria: Florens Carel of Bavaria, Count of Warfusé.

Florens' son and successor Dirk Thomas died in the war in 1706. His sister Maria Isabella married with Jan Frans Paul Emil, comte d'Outremont et Han sur Lesse. This Jan Frans Paul Emil inherited the manor of Schagen and the castle. Because they had no residence in the castle, the castle fell to decay at last.

Old Schagen Castle: a picture postcard.Cornelis Bok's painting. The ruins of Castle of Schagen.
Old Schagen Castle: a picture postcard. (Lit. 5, J.W. Groesbeek)Cornelis Bok's painting: The ruins of Castle of Schagen.
(Ach Lieve Tijd Lit. 22,24,25,26,28)

During the Russian and English invasion in Holland in 1799, part of the troups had occupied the castle, which led to demolition, after which it was destroyed in 1820. The marble pillars of William "the Bastard" from the fireplace were saved and transported to Brussels (Belgium). Other square pillars which William brought from Africa, were saved in the church of Schagen and in 1821 transported to Brussels as well. A piece of marble that had been demolished by the English, remained in Schagen (later it disappeared by enigmatic way). The archive was transported to Brussels and finally purchased by the Dutch State's Archive.

In 1827 the remnants of the castle were removed at last, however the two round corner-towers were saved by the Schagen's government.

The western tower functioned for years (even in WW I) as a prison for temporary prisoners, while the eastern tower served as the jailer's residence. Cornelis Bok (1777-1836) was a jailer about 1830 and an artist as well, creating many paintings and drawings of Schagen and its surroundings.

The east corner-tower in the year 2000 before the castle was rebuilt.
The east corner-tower in the year 2000 before the castle was rebuilt.
(Foto: Ben Dijkhuis)

On the castle's premises a cementery was made, while in the front-square a 'kolfbaan'" (a place for practising an old tradional Westfrisian sport) was constructed. Both remaining towers were renovated in 1931 and provided with round bowed friezes and slate covered spires.

Until the year 2001 the castle terrain lay fallow, but earlier, during the nineties of the last century, the government of Schagen had decided to rebuild the castle in modern style in which the original appearance should be recognizable again. These rebuilding activities were started in 2001 and had been finished in 2002. In this project the two original towers are be saved. During the re-digging of the castle moat, the foundations of the original bridge-columns were discovered.

Rebuilding activities in 2001. Rebuilding activities in 2001.
Rebuilding activities in 2001.
The rebuilt Schagen Castle in 2003. The rebuilt Schagen Castle in 2003.
The rebuilt Schagen Castle in 2003.
The new castle bridge, resting on the foundations of the original bow-bridge. Foundation of an original bridge-column.
The new castle bridge, resting on the
foundations of the original bow-bridge
Foundation of an original bridge-column.
(Foto's: Ben Dijkhuis)

Literatur cited:

(Lit. 3, D. Kransberg, H. Mils)
(Lit. 5, J.W. Groesbeek)
(Lit. 22,24,25,26,28)
(Lit. 35, G. van Berkel, K. Samplonius)

Visit Schagen Castle. (Also for nice pictures! In Dutch only).