AskDefine | Define Leyden

Dictionary Definition

Leyden n : a city in the western Netherlands; residence of the Pilgrim Fathers for 11 years before they sailed for America in 1620 [syn: Leiden]

Extensive Definition

"Leyden" redirects here. For other uses, see Leyden (disambiguation).
Leiden (in English and archaic Dutch also Leyden) is a city and municipality in the province of South Holland in the Netherlands and has 118,000 inhabitants. It forms a single urban area with Oegstgeest, Leiderdorp, Voorschoten, Valkenburg, Rijnsburg and Katwijk, with 254,000 inhabitants. It is located on the Old Rhine, close to the cities of The Hague and Haarlem. The recreational area of the Kaag Lakes (Kagerplassen) lies just to the northeast of Leiden.
Its geographical coordinates are (in decimals: 52.16N, 4.49E). RD coordinates (94, 464).
A university town since 1575, Leiden houses: Leiden is twinned with Oxford, the location of England's oldest university.


Although it is true that Leiden is an old city, its claimed connection with Roman Lugdunum Batavorum is spurious; Roman Lugdunum is actually the very close-by modern town of Katwijk, whereas the Roman settlement near modern Leiden was called Matilo.Leiden flourished in the 16th and 17th century. At the close of the 15th century the weaving establishments (mainly broadcloth) of Leiden were very important, and after the expulsion of the Spaniards Leiden cloth, Leiden baize and Leiden camlet were familiar terms. In the same period, Leiden developed an important printing and publishing industry. The influential printer Christoffel Plantijn lived there at one time. One of his pupils was Lodewijk Elzevir (1547–1617), who established the largest bookshop and printing works in Leiden, a business continued by his descendants.
In 1572, the city sided with the Dutch revolt against Spanish rule and played an important role in the Eighty Years' War. Besieged from May until October 1574 by the Spanish, Leiden was relieved by the cutting of the dikes, thus enabling ships to carry provisions to the inhabitants of the flooded town. As a reward for the heroic defence of the previous year, the University of Leiden was founded by William I of Orange in 1575. Yearly on October 3, the end of the siege is still celebrated in Leiden. Tradition tells that the citizens were offered the choice between a university and a certain exemption from taxes.
Leiden is also known as the place where the Pilgrims (as well as some of the first settlers of New Amsterdam) lived for a time in the early 17th century before their departure to Massachusetts and New Amsterdam in the New World
In the 17th century, Leiden prospered, in part because of the impetus to the textile industry by refugees from Flanders. While the city had lost about a third of its 15000 citizens during the siege of 1574, it quickly recovered to 45000 inhabitants in 1622, and may have come near to 70000 circa 1670. During the Dutch Golden Era, Leiden was the second largest city of Holland, after Amsterdam.
From the late 17th century onwards Leiden slumped, mainly because of decline of the cloth industries. In the beginning of the 19th century the baize manufacture was altogether given up, although industry remained central to Leiden economy. This decline is painted vividly by the fall in population. The population of Leiden had sunk to 30,000 between 1796 and 1811, and in 1904 was 56,044.

19th and 20th century

On 12 January 1807, a catastrophe struck the city when a boat loaded with 17,400 kg of gunpowder blew up in the middle of Leiden. 151 persons were killed, over 2000 were injured and some 220 homes were destroyed. King Louis Bonaparte personally visited the city to provide assistance to the victims.
In 1842, the railroad from Leiden to Haarlem was inaugurated and one year later the railway to Den Haag was completed, resulting in some improvements to the social and economic situation. But the number of citizens was still not much above 50000 in 1900. Not until 1896 did Leiden begin to expand beyond its 17th century moats. After 1920, new industries were established in the city, such as the canning and metal industries.
During World War II, Leiden was hit hard by Allied bombardments. The areas surrounding the railway station and Marewijk were almost completely destroyed.

Leiden today

Today Leiden forms an important part of Dutch history. The end of the Spanish siege in 1574 is celebrated on 3 October by an annual parade, a day off, a fair and eating the traditional food of herring and white bread and hutspot. However, the most important piece of Dutch history contributed by Leiden was the Constitution of the Netherlands. Johan Rudolf Thorbecke (1798–1872) wrote the Dutch Constitution in April 1848 in his house at Garenmarkt 9 in Leiden.
Leiden has important functions as a shopping and trade center for communities around the city. The University of Leiden is famous for its many developments including the famous Leyden jar, a capacitor made from a glass jar, invented in Leiden by Pieter van Musschenbroek in 1746. (It was actually first invented by Ewald Georg von Kleist in Germany the year before, but the name "Leyden jar" stuck.) Another development was in cryogenics: Heike Kamerlingh Onnes (1913 Nobel prize winner in physics) liquefied helium for the first time (1908) and later managed to reach a temperature of less than one degree above the absolute minimum. Albert Einstein also spent some time at Leiden University during his early to middle career.

Rivers, canals and parks

The two branches of the Old Rhine, which enter Leiden on the east, unite in the centre of the town. The town is further intersected by numerous small canals with tree-bordered quays. On the west side of the town, the Hortus Botanicus and other gardens extend along the old Singel, or outer canal. The Van der Werff Park is named after the mayor Pieter Adriaanszoon van der Werff, who defended the town against the Spaniards in 1574. The town was beleaguered for months and many died from hunger. According to legend van der Werff was accused by a frantic crowd of secretly hiding food reserves. He denied this vehemently and to prove his sincerity offered to cut off his arm to serve as food for those who nearly died from hunger. This made people back off, ashamed of their mistrust. The open space for the park was formed by the accidental explosion of a ship loaded with gunpowder in 1807, which destroyed hundreds of houses, including that of the Elsevier family of printers.

Buildings of interest

Because of the economic decline from the 17th to the early 20th century, much of the 16th and 17th century town centre is still intact.


At the strategically important junction of the two arms of the Old Rhine stands the old castle De Burcht, a circular tower built on an earthen mound. The mound probably was a refuge against high water before a small wooden fortress was built on top of it in the 11th century. The citadel is a so-called motte-and-bailey castle. Of Leiden's old city gates only two are left, the Zijlpoort and the Morspoort, both dating from the end of the 17th century. Apart from one small watch tower on the Singel nothing is left of the town's city walls. Another former fortification is the Gravensteen. Built as a fortress in the 13th century it has since served as house, library and prison. Presently it is one of the University's buildings.


The chief of Leiden's numerous churches are the Hooglandsche Kerk (or the church of St Pancras, built in the 15th century and containing a monument to Pieter Adriaanszoon van der Werff) and the Pieterskerk (church of St Peter (1315) with monuments to Scaliger, Boerhaave and other famous scholars. From a historical perspective the Marekerk is interesting too. Arent van 's Gravesande designed the church in 1639. Other fine examples of his work in Leiden are De Lakenhal, in which the municipal museum is located, and the Bibliotheca Thysiana. The growing town needed another church and the Marekerk was the first church to be built in Leiden (and in Holland) after the Reformation. It is an example of Dutch Classicism. In the drawings by Van 's Gravesande the pulpit is the centrepiece of the church. The pulpit is modelled after the one in the Nieuwe Kerk at Haarlem (designed by Jacob van Campen). The building was first used in 1650, and is still in use.Marekerk

University buildings

The town centre contains many buildings that are in use by the University of Leiden. The Academy Building is housed in a former 16th century convent. Among the institutions connected with the university are the national institution for East Indian languages, ethnology and geography; the botanical gardens, founded in 1587; the observatory (1860); the museum of antiquities (Rijksmuseum van Oudheden); and the ethnographical museum, of which P. F. von Siebold's Japanese collections was the nucleus (Rijksmuseum voor Volkenkunde). The Bibliotheca Thysiana occupies an old Renaissance building of the year 1655. It is especially rich in legal works and vernacular chronicles. Noteworthy are also the many special collections at Leiden University Library among which those of the Society of Dutch Literature (1766) and the collection of casts and engravings. In recent years the university has built the Bio Science Park at the city's outskirts to accommodate the Science departments.

Other buildings

Some other interesting buildings are the town hall (Stadhuis), a 16th century building that was badly damaged by a fire in 1929); the Gemeenslandshuis van Rynland (1596, restored in 1878); the weigh house (Waag), built by Pieter Post; the former court-house (Gerecht); a corn-grinding windmill, now home to a museum (Molen de Valk) (1743); the old gymnasium (Latijnse School) (1599) and the city carpenter's yard and wharf (Stadstimmerwerf) (1612), both built by Lieven de Key (c. 1560–1627). Another building of interest is the "pesthuis", which was built at that time just outside the city for curing patients suffering the bubonic plague. However, after it was built the feared disease did not occur in the Netherlands anymore so it was never used for its original purpose, it now serves as the entrance of Naturalis, one of the largest natural history museums in the world. Oudt Leyden, the so called oldest pancake house (pannekoekenhuis in Dutch) in Europe is home to its famous large pancakes and Delft crockery, it's also known for serving the likes of Winston Churchill and the Dalai Lama.

Public transport

Leiden is on the planned route of the RijnGouweLijn, the Netherland's first Light rail project. Within Leiden its route would have been: Leiden Lammenschans - Korevaarstraat - Breestraat - stop Haarlemmerstraat - Stationsplein - Joop Walenkamptunnel - Albinusdreef (LUMC) - Sandfortdreef - Zernikedreef (Hogeschool) - (Einsteinweg) - Ehrenfestweg - (Plesmanlaan) - Transferium A44. This route, however, has been rejected by Leiden citizens in a referendum.

Famous inhabitants

See also People from Leiden
The following is a selection of important Leidenaren throughout history:


See also


Leyden in Afrikaans: Leiden
Leyden in Arabic: ليدن
Leyden in Breton: Leiden
Leyden in Bulgarian: Лайден
Leyden in Catalan: Leiden
Leyden in Czech: Leiden
Leyden in Welsh: Leiden
Leyden in Danish: Leiden
Leyden in German: Leiden (Stadt)
Leyden in Estonian: Leiden
Leyden in Spanish: Leiden
Leyden in Esperanto: Leiden
Leyden in Persian: لیدن
Leyden in French: Leyde
Leyden in Western Frisian: Leien
Leyden in Ido: Leiden
Leyden in Indonesian: Leiden
Leyden in Italian: Leida
Leyden in Hebrew: ליידן
Leyden in Javanese: Leiden
Leyden in Georgian: ლეიდენი
Leyden in Latin: Lugdunum Batavorum
Leyden in Lithuanian: Leidenas
Leyden in Limburgan: Leie (sjtad)
Leyden in Dutch: Leiden
Leyden in Dutch Low Saxon: Leidn
Leyden in Japanese: ライデン
Leyden in Norwegian: Leiden
Leyden in Norwegian Nynorsk: Leiden
Leyden in Polish: Lejda
Leyden in Portuguese: Leida
Leyden in Romanian: Leiden
Leyden in Russian: Лейден
Leyden in Simple English: Leiden
Leyden in Slovak: Leiden
Leyden in Slovenian: Leiden
Leyden in Serbian: Лајден
Leyden in Serbo-Croatian: Leiden
Leyden in Finnish: Leiden
Leyden in Swedish: Leiden
Leyden in Tamil: லைடன்
Leyden in Ukrainian: Лейден
Leyden in Volapük: Leiden
Leyden in Chinese: 莱顿
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