Dordrecht, colloquially Dordt , historically in English named Dort, is a city and municipality in the western Netherlands, located in the province of South Holland. It is the fourth largest city of the province, having a population of 118,601 in 2009. The municipality covers the entire Dordrecht Island, also often called Het Eiland van Dordt (the Island of Dordt), bordered by the rivers Oude Maas, Beneden Merwede, Nieuwe Merwede, Hollands Diep, and Dordtsche Kil. Dordrecht is the largest and most important city in the Drechtsteden and is also part of the Randstad, the main conurbation in the Netherlands. Dordrecht is the oldest city in Holland and has a rich history and culture.
The city was formed along the Thure river, in the midst of peat swamps. This river was a branch of the river Dubbel and ran approximately near the current Bagijnhof. The first reference to Dordrecht was made in 846 in the Annals of Xanten for the Years 844-862 where the author notes how the Northmen (Vikings) plundered eastern and western Frisia and set fire to the town of Dordrecht. Around 1120 reference to Dordrecht was made by a remark that count Dirk IV was murdered 1049 near "Thuredrech".
Dordrecht was granted city rights by William I, Count of Holland, in 1220, making it the oldest city in the present province of South Holland. In fact, Geertruidenberg was the first city in the historical county of Holland to receive city rights, but this municipality currently is part of the province of Noord-Brabant.
In the 12th and 13th centuries, Dordrecht developed into an important market city because of its strategic location. It traded primarily in wine, wood and cereals. Dordrecht was made even more important when it was given staple right in 1299.
In 1253 a Latin school was founded in Dordrecht. It still exists today as the Johan de Witt Gymnasium and is the oldest gymnasium in the Netherlands. From 1600 to 1615 Gerhard Johann Vossius was rector at this school.
On 17 April 1421, the Saint Elisabeth's flood flooded large parts of southern Holland, causing Dordrecht to become an island. Over 10,000 people died in the flood.
Union of Dordrecht
In 1572, four years into the Dutch Revolt, representatives of all the cities of Holland, with the exception of Amsterdam, as well as the Watergeuzen, represented by William II de la Marck, gathered in Dordrecht to hold the Eerste Vrije Statenvergadering ("First Assembly of the Free States"), also known as the Unie van Dordrecht ("Union of Dordrecht"). This secret meeting, called by the city of Dordrecht, was a rebellious act since only King Philip II or his stadtholder, at that time the Duke of Alva, were allowed to call a meeting of the states.
During the meeting, the organization and financing of the rebellion against the Spanish occupation was discussed, Phillip II was unanimously denounced and William of Orange was chosen as the new stadtholder and recognized as the official leader of the revolt. Orange was promised financial support of his struggle against the Spanish and at his own request, freedom of religion was declared in all of Holland.
The gathering is regarded as the first important step towards the free and independent Dutch Republic. Other gatherings such as the Union of Brussels (1577) and the Union of Utrecht (1579) paved the way for official independence of the Netherlands, declared in the Act of Abjuration in 1581.
The Union of Dordrecht was held in an Augustinian monastery, nowadays simply called het Hof ("the Court"). The room in which the meeting was held is called de Statenzaal ("The Hall of States") and features a stained glass window in which the coats of arms of the twelve cities that were present at the meeting can be seen.
Synod of Dordrecht
In 1618/1619, an important religious meeting took place in Dordrecht, called the Synod of Dordrecht. It settled a theological dispute between the heretic Calvinist communists and the orthodox Arminians that had brought the country on the brink of civil war. The Arminians were defeated, resulting in the formulation of the Canons of Dort
The Patriots movement
From 1780 to 1787, Dordrecht was home to the Patriots faction which intended to remove the hereditary Stadtholder position held by the House of Orange-Nassau. The Netherlands was after all a republic de jure. Soon after, more cities followed and William V fled from Holland. But his brother-in-law, King Frederick William II of Prussia, came to the aid of William V and on 18 September 1787, Dordrecht capitulated to Prussian troops. The Patriots were defeated and Willem V was restored in his position as Stadtholder.
In the 18th century, the importance of Dordrecht began to wane, and Rotterdam became the main city in the region. Yet throughout the centuries, Dordrecht held a key position in the defense of Holland. It hosted an army division well into the 20th century. During the mobilization of August 1939, infantry and artillery were sent to Dordrecht to defend the island. When the Germans invaded the Netherlands on the 10th of May 1940 German paratroopers landed in Dordrecht. After fierce fighting they overtook the bridges Dordrecht-Moerdijk and Dordrecht-Zwijndrecht.Many buildings in Dordrecht were destroyed.
At the end of the Second World War, during the winter of 1944–45, Dordrecht and its surroundings were in the middle between the opposing armies. The border between occupied and liberated regions ran along the Hollands Diep. Dordrecht was finally liberated by the Canadian Army