In this Spotlight "Amsterdam by Night" takes a closer look at a great piece of Amsterdam history: the Montelbaanstoren. This old defensive tower used to be part of the eastern defenses of the city. The Montelbaanstowers is among one of the oldest and most recognizable monuments in the city of Amsterdam.
Attack on Lastage
During the middle ages the city constructed several defensive walls and moats to keep invaders out of the city. The growing population however led to new neighborhoods outside the existing walls in unprotected lands. This is how the Lastage, an industrial harbour area to the east of the city center, came into existance. During the 16th century this area was home to shipwharves and poluting industry that was banned from the inner city.
Due to its increasing wealth, Amsterdam became a target for plundering and during 1512 the city was attacked by troops from Gelre. The city was not plundered during this attack, but the industrial area of the Lastage was completely destroyed, partly through invading troops, but also by Amsterdam to keep the attackers from obtaining a defensive foothold.
Extension of the Defensive Walls
After the attack by Gelre it was decided to extend the defensive walls to include the eastern part of the city, also the Lastage, for better protection. The Montelbaanstoren finds its origin in these new defensive works and was constructed around 1517. In contrast to the current tower, the original was square. It wasn't used for a long time as the city grew extensively during 1585 and 1591, making the tower obsolete. Afterwards, it was used as a magazin and lookout tower. The upper part was also removed.
Reconstruction and New Function
In 1606 it was decided to add a clockwork to the tower in order to keep the inhabitants of Lastage up to date about the time. This led to a renovation by city architect Hendrick de Keyser. By 1610, the tower started sinking away, and to prevent collapse it was supported and later put straight again with additional fortifications around the base. In 1852 money for a much needed renovation was declined by the city government. Luckily in the end there were some funds available, so the tower could be restored. After the renovation it was used to house civil services, a police post and an office of Waternet.
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