Over 2,000 cultural activities at 5,000 heritage sites in the Netherlands were organised on the weekend of 10th September as a part of “Open Monumentendag,” a yearly Dutch celebration of cultural heritage within European Heritage Days. Attracting one million people to the most iconic monuments in the country, the event marked a major success in bringing local heritage closer to citizens and cherishing shared European values.
Recognizing “Icons and Symbols” in our Shared Heritage
The National Opening of the festival took place on Thursday, September 8th, in the city of Den Bosch, one of the major monument cities in the Netherlands and the ‘capital’ of the world of the medieval painter Hieronymus Bosch, who lived in the city until his death 500 years ago. As a birthplace of the artist known for the extensive use of icons and symbols in his work, Den Bosch was a perfect setting for the celebration of this year’s Open Monumentendag theme. Dedicated to “Icons and Symbols,” the theme highlighted how icons and symbols in heritage connect us to our surroundings and to each other.
Recognizing our heritage is part of forming a community and being part of this community, which is how the Dutch theme this year connects to the European Heritage Days common theme.
The EHD events help strengthen the Dutch focus on heritage and also connect all Europeans to our common values. Being aware of the importance of our heritage is why we all visit historic sites and monumental buildings, not only during European Heritage Days but year-round. During our daytrips and visits abroad we feel the need to connect to the history and culture of the places we visit and live in. And this is what the event ‘Open Monumentendag’ in the Netherlands offers the one million Dutch visitors when they visit Open Monuments Day.
As Professor Mr. Pieter van Vollenhoven so aptly put it during his opening speech in Den Bosch: “In the last 30 years, Open Monumentendag has made sure that monuments are favourite amongst both local authorities and the general public.” Recent research confirms that 89% of the Dutch people find it important that monumental heritage is preserved and that opening this heritage to the general public increases the social basis for preservation.
Open Monumentendag 2016 Highlights
With about 6,000 visitors, two (former) prisons in the cities of Breda and Den Bosch were amongst the best-visited monuments during this year’s Open Monumentendag. In addition to them, the architectural wonders Nieuwe Kerk in Delft and the Pieterskerk in Leiden received over 5.000 guests.
For another year, the Binnenhof in Den Haag was amongst the most attractive destinations during the festival. As the Dutch House of Parliament, the Binnenhof is the meeting place of both houses of the States General of the Netherlands, as well as the Ministry of General Affairs and the office of the Prime Minister of the Netherlands. Its historic value, however, lies in the fact it is actually the oldest House of Parliament in the world still in use.
Thanks to all the monument-owners and many, many volunteers this jubilee year was an inspiring success. The experiences from all these remarkable events help cherish the spirit of European Heritage Days throughout the year, reconnecting the citizens with their common past and shared European heritage.