The museum is housed in the former town jail annex scales. The cells with thick double doors and bars are still intact. Don’t lock yourself in. In front of the museum is the small central market place, now a terrace of a restaurant.
In earlier days Brielle was an important port with direct access to the North Sea and the rivers upstream. It played a key role in the liberation of The Netherlands from Spanish rule in the 16th and 17th century as it was the first town to be liberated by the so called Sea Beggars (Watergeuzen).
Liberation of this town inspired other towns to stand up against the Spaniards and eventually led to ending the 80-year war with the peace treaty of Munster in 1648.
The liberation of Brielle was on the 1st of April 1572 and every year this is celebrated with a re-enactment of the events by dressed up actors. When you are around Brielle around the 1st of April this is not to be missed.
As Holland was then governed by the Spanish Duke de Alba and the name Brielle resembles “bril” which is the Dutch word for glasses everybody in Holland knows the phrase “Op 1 april verloor Alva zijn bril” (On the 1st of April Alva lost his glasses).
Interestingly the name Sea Beggar comes from a meeting that was held between the then Spanish Governess over the Low Lands, Margaretha of Parma, and 200 unarmed noblemen from The Netherlands on 5 April 1566. The noblemen came to plea for more religious freedom and an open discussion on other matters of state. The Governess at first was startled by the large number of noblemen before her but one of her counsellors sets her at rest by whispering to her “ce ne sont que des gueux" (“they are just beggars”) This was picked up by the noblemen and some days later they decided to use the word “gueux” as their proud name of resistance and others followed. Even in the Second World War the name “geuzen” was used by those who stood up against the German occupation of The Netherlands.
The larger part of the museum is dedicated to the 80-year war with the Spaniards with highlights on those in powers, everyday life, the famous trading companies VOC and WIC, the massacre of Catholic clergymen (Martyrs of Gorcum), the iconoclasm and the famous 1st of April battle.
Separate rooms are dedicated to sea heroes from Brielle and the history of the town and its surroundings.
All texts are both in English and Dutch.
A good museum to visit when you want to know more of the origin of The Netherlands at the start of its Golden Age (17th century) and you can combine this with a visit to the nice St Catharine Church close by
There is no food for purchase but there are lots of nice cafés and restaurants close to the museum.
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