Dug towards the end of the 15th century, the Kloveniersburgwal (Arquebusier’s Rampart) runs south from the former Saint Anthony’s Gate (now the Weigh House on the Nieuwmarkt) and ends on the river Amstel. Three small towers and one big one (Swych Utrecht from 1481) were created in the newly erected city wall. The city moat, at the time on the edge of the medieval city, was formed by the Geldersekade (Guelders Quay), the Kloveniersburgwal and the Singel. Next to the wall on the side of the Kloveniersburgwal were mostly gardens and orchards, as well as the Bethaniënklooster (Monastery of Saint Mary Magdalene of Bethany).
A Defensive Canal
The canal’s name derives from the Kloveniers, the Amsterdam civic militia who were armed with culverins (a type of musket). They gathered in the Kloveniersdoelen (Arquebusier’s Shooting Range) next to the tower Swych Utrecht, on the corner of the Kloveniersburgwal and the Nieuwe Doelenstraat. Their group portrait, the famous Night Watch by Rembrandt, once hung inside the hall in their building.
The Swych Utrecht tower (Be Silent Utrecht), meant to protect against attacks by the powerful bishops of Utrecht, was almost completely demolished in 1882 and the Doelen Hotel was constructed in its place. After the Nieuwe Gracht (the current Oudeschans) had been dug and the new city ramparts had been constructed, the Kloveniersburgwal no longer had a defense purpose. The old city wall was demolished and houses were constructed on the other side of the canal.
This monastery from around 1450 is one of the few remnants of the many monasteries that dominated this side of town in the Middle Ages. It was named after Mary of Bethany (Mary Magdalene). Originally run by Augustinian nuns as a place where fallen women could do penance (Bekeerde Susteren — Converted Sisters), the monastery soon became popular with the rich elite — elderly women paid a one-time sum for lifelong room and board. Brewery De Bekeerde Suster at Kloveniersburgwal 6-8 takes its name from the former monastery’s original purpose.
In the 16th century large sections of the monastery where sold off to the city. The order was abolished in 1585 and the former monastery became an inn for a number of years. All that remains of it now is the northern wing on the Barndesteeg (a concert hall for a while, since 2015 converted to housing and offices) and some wall fragments on the Gedempte Huidenvetterssloot. The street names Bethaniënstraat, Bethaniëndwarsstraat, and Koestraat (Cow Street) are reminders of the monastery. The nuns raised oxen to provide meat for the many banquets of the various citizen militias (schutterijen).
Right before the Staalstraat is the Aluminiumbrug, a steel bridge across the Kloveniersburgwal from 1955 with an aluminum deck (hence the name). This was the first permanent bridge in the Netherlands with an aluminum bridge deck, the seventh of its kind in the world. This spot has had a bridge for centuries though, shown on maps from 1599 and 1625. These predecessors were replaced several times, until the current one was constructed in 1955. The bridge was plagued for a while by hundreds of tourists attaching so-called love locks to it, which threatened the relatively light construction with their weight.
Buildings on the Kloveniersburgwal
- Aluminiumbrug (Aluminum Bridge) from 1955 near the Staalstraat
- Trippenhuis (House Trip) from 1662 at number 29
- Compagnietheater from 1772 (former Lutherian church De Kloof) at number 50
- Bushuis from 1890, between the Compagnietheater and the Oude Hoogstraat
- Oost-Indisch Huis (East-Indian House) from 1606 at number 48, the first building especially built for the East India Company (VOC)
- House the Ster (the Star) from 1650 at number 77
- Poppenhuis (House Poppen), also known as Gulden Steur (Golden Sturgeon) from 1642 at number 95
- Part of the former Binnengasthuis from 1870 (inner city hospital)
- Entrance to the Oudemanhuispoort (Old Men House Gate) from around 1601, towards the terrain of the University of Amsterdam
- Vereniging Liefdadigheid naar Vermogen (Charity according to Wealth) from 1914 at number 73
- Maatschappij voor den Werkenden Stand (Association for the Working Class) from 1883 at number 87-89
- Literary Café De Engelbewaarder (Guardian Angel), since 1971 at number 59
- Het Wapen van Amsterdam, former hotel from around 1780 at number 64
- Stads- en Gasthuisapotheek (City and Hospital Pharmacy) from 1887 at number 80
- Laboratorium voor Artsenijbereidkunde (Laboratory for Medicine Preparation) from 1881 at number 82A-G
A large stretch of the quay on the west side of the Kloveniersburgwal was in bad condition and has been temporarily reinforced with sheet piling and sand in the fall of 2020, between the numbers 2 and 114. Eventually this whole quay will be renewed.
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