Abbey of Our Lady, Middelburg Onze Lieve Vrouwe Abdij
On the northeast side of the inner ring stands Onze Lieve Vrouwe Abdij, the Abbey of Our Lady. In 1150 White Canons of the Norbertine order (named after St Norbert of Xanten, who founded the order at Prémontré in France: hence the alternative name Premonstratensian) established themselves in the Carolingian stronghold of Middelburg. In the 16th century the abbey consisted of a picturesque and many-towered complex of buildings laid out round a cloister, including the canons' lodgings, to which were later added a refectory and chapterhouse (now the Provincial Library), a second courtyard, two churches and a tower.When William the Silent recovered Middelburg from the Spaniards in 1574 the abbey was secularized and became the seat of the provincial administration, the Admiralty and the Mint. Even a cannon foundry was established within the precincts. Only the churches retained their original function, though now for the Reformed faith. Many parts of the complex have two names, reflecting their dual use: the White Tower became the Munttoren (Mint Tower), the Abdijplein the Muntplein, the Refectory the Statenzaal (Hall of the States). The buildings were almost completely destroyed in the 1940 bombing but were rebuilt after the war in the same style. They now house the Zeeland provincial government, the Roosevelt Study Center (20th century American history) and the Zeeland Mint.
Useful tips: Tours at: May to Oct, Mon-Sat 1:30 p.m. and 4 p.m. Additional tours in July and August on Tue-Fri at 11am.
Guides: Guided tour included with admission.
In Middelburg, the two-aisled Nieuwe Kerk (16th C.), the parish church, and the aisleless Koorkerk (early 14th C.), the abbey church (beautiful reticulated vaulting), were originally joined. Since the parish church had no choir of its own, the west end of the monks' church, known as the middle choir, was used as the choir for the lay congregation. Over this is the tower known as Lange Jan ("Long John"). In this church are the double tomb of the brothers Jan and Cornelis Evertsen, two admirals killed in the English war of 1666, and memorial tablets for Count William of Holland (d. 1256), king of Germany, and his brother Floris (d. 1258). The magnificent marble tomb was the last great work of Rombout Verhulst (1680-82). After their restoration both churches were provided with organs by the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam. The organ in the Koorkerk (built in 1481) came from St Nicolaaskerk in Utrecht, that in the Nieuwe Kerk (1892) from a Protestant church in Amsterdam.
The octagonal tower - a rare feature in the Netherlands - popularly known as Lange Jan, originally dating from the 14th century but several times burned down (most recently in 1940), is the great landmark and emblem of Middelburg. A staircase of 207 steps leads up to the top (91m/299ft), which carries a large imperial crown in honor of Count (King) William II. From the top of the tower there are extensive views over the whole of Walcheren and much of the Deltawerken.
Not directly connected with the Onze Lieve Vrouwe Abdij complex but associated with it, is the imposing Gistpoort (1509-12), also known as the Blauwpoort (Blue Gate) from the color of the stone with which it is faced. On the gable can be seen a statue of Count William II, who extended the abbey in 1255-56.
In the older part of the Onze Lieve Vrouwe Abdij is the Zeeland Museum (Zeeuws Museum), with collections of antiquities (Egyptian mummies), costumes and natural history and reconstructions of an old baker's shop and a room from a farmhouse.