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Kuinre castles protected by rare system of double moats

Historic sites valuable for tourism

Tags: Excerpts from the Windmill

KUINRE, the Netherlands - A local group in Kuinre, a town on the Overijssel border with Friesland, literally wants to make its history come alive and earn some hard currency in the process. To get this project started, it first unearthed the remaining archeological traces of the long demolished castles of the controversial Lords of Kuinre. Since then, the heritage site which borders the now defunct Zuiderzee-coastline has been covered over again.

The group hopes to develop the archeological site of the last castle into a tourism attraction. The digging resulted in a much needed overview of the layout and floorplan of the castle.

The location of the oldest castle was first discovered in 1942 in freshly reclaimed Zuiderzee-land of the Noordoostpolder near Kuinre. The site of the newer castle as well had been devoured by the often rough inland sea. The older castle had been vacated in the early 1400s when it became a victim of coastline erosion.

The later castle was torn down in 1530 after it had become redundant. Emperor Charles V who earlier had brought the area under his control as part of his drive to consolidate his control of all Dutch provinces, likely did not want strongholds which could present future political problems to him. The bricks of the castle were reused in a new ‘steenhuis’ or Manor at Genemuiden, some distance away.

The area was strategically protected by two streams - the Linde and the Kuinder (since then canalized and renamed the Tjonger ). Godfried van Rhenen, Bishop of Utrecht (1156-1178), had castles built at Vollenhove and Kuinre to protect the outer edges of his northern realm. A Frisian count reportedly destroyed the Kuinre stronghold before 1200, opening the possibility that the Zuiderzee town may have been the site of three castles.

The successive Lords of Kuinre as vassals of the bishop acted very independently when Utrecht’s political power was weak, often earning their keep by pirating passing ships - and extracting tolls - and by warring on neighbouring vassals and at times on their distant masters of the Diocese of Utrecht. The latter eventually gained the upper hand but it was not until the emperor’s Netherlandic drive that Kuinre’s independency was broken for all times.

The excavation produced such items as granite canon balls, bones of cattle and of a rare bird, and showed the outlines of an unusual, double moat around the strongholds. The older stronghold is thought to have been a single tower.