Middeleeuwse dwangburchten van West-Friesland en Alkmaar
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The medieval castles of West-Frisia and Alkmaar
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Wijdenes Castle

(Update: 2016-05-05)

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We can consider the name of Wijdenes as a combination of two words from the Medieval Dutch (Middle Dutch): 'wijt' and 'nesse'.

'Wijt': as in modern Dutch we know the word 'wijd' and in English: 'wide', meaning broad, extensive.

'Nesse': a piece of land with a particular shape at the sea-coast or 'a spit of land'.

Wijdenes was also mentioned in Melis Stoke's Rhymechronicles (13/14th century) as 'Widenesse', in which we encounter the Old Saxon word 'wid' and in Germanic 'wida', also meaning wide, broad, extensive

Foundation and destruction

When the offensive against the Westfrisians AD 1282 became a success, Florens V built five fortresses. The first one at Wijdenes, so everyone could see he had authority over the Westfrisians. Melis Stoke, the poet laureate of Florens V, had written down these events in his Rhymechronicles of Holland. Then Florens built the other fortresses; Medemblik Castle, and two near Alkmaar: Middelburg Castle, and Nieuwburg Castle. Near the end of the river 'Rekere' he founded Nuwendoorn Castle. Despite the fact that Florens V had defeated the Westfrisians, the people in his territories rebelled after he had been murdered in 1296, incited by the bishop of Utrecht: William van Mechelen. After the rebels occupied Muiden Castle they retreated at last, plundering the land they encountered. After this terror they attacked and conquered Wijdenes Castle. Boudewijn van Naaldwijk was in charge of this castle, he surrendered, but he and his family were spared. The castle was totally destroyed. The Westfrisians also attacked Nuwendoorn Castle and Medemblik Castle. The attack on the latter failed after all. The foundations of Nuwendoorn Castle have been rediscovered, but the foundations of Wijdenes Castle have never been found.

The remains are lost

According to Groesbeek there were no indications of the remains of Wijdenes Castle. Yet on old maps from the 17th and 18th centuries, pieces of land were called 't Hofland' and 'Huys of Wydenes' suggest that the vanished castle had been there.

Where the castle was located exactly is still unkown. It is a common thought that the castle was positioned at the end of the 'Zuideruitweg' (near the Markermeer in present days), while probably the remains of the fortress were swallowed by the sea.
In 1997 the local Historical Society: 'Suyder Cogge' indicated a possible location. Divers did their search under the ice of the frozen Markermeer. About 300 meters offshore they made a remarkable discovery. They found two rows of bricks. These bricks have special dimensions, which were characteristic for Medieval castle-building ('kloostermoppen'). These findings probably indicate the former position of Wijdenes Castle. However this theory is very uncertain because no foundations were found after all, which justifies more investigation to be done.

Artist's impression of Wijdenes Castle.
Jacobus Stellingwerf (1667-1727): Artist's fantasy of Wijdenes Castle.
(Hoorn, Westfries Archief)

Divers excavating medieval bricks from the Markermeer near Wijdenes.

Literature cited:

(Lit. 5, J.W. Groesbeek)
(Lit. 15, Hameleers)
(Lit. 22,23,24,25)
(Lit. 34, J. de Vries)
(Lit. 35, G. van Berkel, K. Samplonius)
(Lit. 36, N. Lakeman, M. Franke)