A Glorious Past
There is a reason the town of Enschede has been called the “Christmas Town”. The quaint Dutch city is definitely a winter wonderland, boasting a dazzling array of Christmas markets and events. But, more than that, the entire city is bathed in a glorious past.
To best enjoy the Christmas spirit in Enschede, it is imperative to understand the city’s rich history. Therefore, here are some key events that shaped the city and its inhabitants.
The Discovery of Enschede
Although it may not seem like it, Enschede is actually much younger than it appears. In fact, the city was founded more than 500 years ago, in the summer of 1593. It originally started off as a military outpost and port of call for Dutch trading ships. With time, it became a bustling city and flourished as a commercial hub for the entire region.
Even today, with its historical center mostly untouched by modernization, one can experience an array of charming boutiques, art galleries, and eateries. The cobbled streets and stone houses still exude an old-world charm and a festive atmosphere throughout the year. On top of that, residents frequently refer to Enschede as the most beautiful city in the Netherlands.
The Golden Age Of Painting
During the 17th century, the city experienced a cultural golden age, when artists and designers from all over Europe came to paint the city’s beautiful canals and merchant’s houses. In 1632, the Dutch government even decreed that all houses in the city must have at least one painting on the wall.
It was during this time that the city became well-known for its 17th-century paintings. These days, visitors to Enschede can still visit some of the city’s most famous sites, such as the Plantin-Moretus Museum, which houses the world’s largest collection of early-17th-century paintings. The entire city is also filled with art galleries and antique shops, selling all manner of beautiful objects. It is quite an experience to wander the streets and find oneself surrounded by historical monuments, art galleries, and expensive leather-bound books.
The golden age of painting in Enschede lasted for more than 100 years, until the middle of the 18th century. At this point, the city entered a period of decline, as the Dutch government sold off many of its properties, due to financial distress. It wasn’t until the middle of the 19th century that the city once again became a hub for art and culture. This time, it was the Golden Age of the printing press. Many notable Dutch and European figures visited the city during this time, as they wanted to support the local printers, who produced many essential works, including the Bible, poems by Byron, and the works of William Shakespeare.
Throughout the late 18th century and into the early 20th century, Enschede again became a cultural hub, when it was the center of a movement known as “Theatre Mania”.
Theatre Mania was an art movement that emerged in the middle of the 19th century. It was fueled by a desire for modernity and a craving for entertainment. Many famous artists came from all over Europe to live in the city during this time, as they wanted to be near the theaters that were sprouting up throughout the city. In fact, there is even a street named after August Buchner, an important figure in the movement who lived in Enschede at the time.
During this same period, the city was also the birthplace of the novel, with the works of Ludwig Börne and Hans Christian Andersen attracting many readers. It wasn’t only literature that attracted people to the city during this time, as the city was also the stage for important plays, including William Shakespeare’s Othello, which was performed for the first time in Dutch.
An Industrial Revolution
The final and arguably the most important event that shaped Enschede was the advent of modern industry. By the later part of the 19th century, the city’s economic situation had become so dire that many of its inhabitants were turning to drink and drugs as a means of escape. It was in this atmosphere that a group of entrepreneurs decided to take matters into their own hands and reform the city’s outdated economic system. With the help of French engineer Maurice Mallet, the group set out to build a model city intended to serve as an example of how industry could benefit an entire nation.
To do this, they began by attracting industries to the city that were in need of an adequate supply of labor. Thus, in 1881, the first textile factory opened its doors in Enschede, turning the city into a major center of the European textile industry. With time, other industries, such as chemical and metal processing plants, began populating the city. It wasn’t only about attracting businesses, however, as the city’s economic structure also needed to be modernized. Therefore, in 1874, the city’s first cooperative society was formed, with many other businesses (especially manufacturers) following suit.
It is estimated that over 80% of the city’s current population migrated to Enschede during this time. This was mostly an urban exodus, as many rural areas of the Netherlands also experienced mass migration, in an effort to escape famine and economic hardship. The result was that by 1900, the city’s population had risen by almost 50%. In 1910, the first electric tram ran through the city’s streets, bringing with it an era of convenience and progress.
A Museum Of Applied Arts
Perhaps the city’s most enduring contribution to art and culture is its collection of museums and galleries. Indeed, at the time of writing, the city is home to more than 20 museums and art galleries. Since its founding, the city has attracted many European and Dutch artists and designers who wanted to live in a modern and stimulating environment. As a result, the city is now a must-see destination for anyone interested in art.
The most prominent of these museums are the Gemeentemuseum, which houses a collection of 20th-century Dutch and Flemish paintings; and the Plantin-Moretus Museum, which is home to the largest collection of early-17th-century paintings in the world. It was founded by a generous donation from a member of the wealthy Morlet family, which owns a large amount of land in and around the city. Even more impressively, he specifically requested that his collection of Roman coins and ancient pottery be displayed in an art museum, but not in a historic building, for fear of it being destroyed.
The cultural landscape of Enschede is filled with modern art and design. Many of the museums and galleries in the city are adorned with beautiful works that represent the cutting edge of art and design. Moreover, with the support of the local government and entrepreneurs, many of the city’s historic buildings have been painstakingly restored, resulting in picturesque streets filled with 19th-century commercial architecture and elegant townhouses.
Additionally, the entire city, including its churches, is filled with beautiful ornaments. For centuries, the city’s Christmas trees have been adorned with all manner of fascinating ornaments. Thus, the city truly is a winter wonderland, filled with grand churches, Renaissance palaces, and bustling markets.
In conclusion, apart from acting as a window to the city’s glorious past, Enschede is also a place that revels in its present. With the support of its thriving business community and many local celebrities (such as Rembrandt, who painted the city’s most famous canvas, The Night Watch), the city’s artistic reputation continues to grow every year.