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If I had a column in the Delft op Zondag

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(Not the real)
Delft op Zondag


13 NOVEMBER, 2016

Binnen en Buiten / Inside and Outside

DELFT - The image of a walled city was too wide for a snapshot; so, I picked the side that I live in and which still has the original wall. The two towers and arched entry are today a popular place for wedding photos.

As I looked at the old representation, one of my first impressions is that Delft existed in dangerous times; the fortifications state that bluntly. Looking more closely, the wall along the waterside is dark and fools the eye as if that is all there is. The lighter band above is also wall, meaning it was high. The orange arrow is my street. Now, I step out and am in town or I can look left toward the Schie canal and passing ships. Then, there was only the town's street scene.


"A buddy was at his local kringloop/recycle shop and saw a panorama of Delft around the 1650's and bought it for me. I propped it up on the dining room table and let my impressions wander."

There is a little more to be inferred such as the east entry into Delft. The wall and infrequent gates were meant to keep people out. A herdsman brings a cow to the Beestenmarkt/beast market and then leaves before the gates close for the night. A farmer with garden goods gets his business done before dark. But, it was risky to live outside the walls.

Any roaming bully or local land owner could do as he liked. It was what most Americans would call a protection racket. Bob Dylan's Ya gotta serve someone, the Devil or the Lord... kept running through my mind.

I think Delft must have been a company town. A place where people paid to live there, tithes and a wall tax at the least.

The detail in the drawing, and lack of it, suggests priorities and power. The wall and towers are out of proportion; they are larger. The households and businesses of Delft are sketched in almost like a filler pattern: this is where people live.

Far and away, the most important building is the New Church, and it is detailed. It is Dutch Reform now but was Catholic. People in Delft scheduled their lives to its bells and learned on Sundays how to be in accord with God's will.

It was a place deeply conservative after generations of unholy religious war. The only other building in detail is the city hall. In pragmatic terms, here is where successful, devote men met to manage the city and increase profit.

Although towns held only a small portion of the population, they were literate and prosperous. That would not be the case for folks who are depicted so idyllically on the far bank of the Schie. The lane is uncrowded, almost a parkland.

Delft would have been dependent on the farms around it for food and especially for wood for fireplaces. Delft can get murky from wood burning in winter; then, it must have been choking inside the walls that you could not see over

G. Wiley / NLStrabo - © Copyright - All rights reserved -
In memory of Herb Caen