Leiden Expat Center


3 October: Leiden’s Relief

2 October 2010

3 October: Leiden’s Relief

The city of Leiden was besieged from 1573 until 1574, when it was finally relieved. Leiden’s Relief (Leidens Ontzet) is celebrated annually in order to commemorate the siege during the Eighty Years’ War and the relief of the city on October 3, 1574.
The siege and the relief of the City of Leiden took place during the Eighty Years’ War (1568-1648). Intially the City Council remained loyal to the Sovereign Lord King Filips II of Spain, but in June 1572, the city chose to be loyal to Prince William of Orange. In an attempt to regain power over the city, the Spanish starved the inhabitants of Leiden in order to force them to surrender. During the second siege, 6000 of the 18000 inhabitants of Leiden died of starvation and the plague. The City Council remained unmoved and would not even consider surrendering to the Spanish oppressor.

The “(water)geuzen” pierced the dikes at Rotterdam and Capelle aan den IJssel in September 1574, in order to flood the polder lands. The outcome of this action depended on the winds which would have to move the water towards Leiden. The City Council did not surrender to the Spanish King as they had been informed of the plan to relieve the city.

The water rose high and so the Spanish troops fled. According to tradition, it was the little orphaned boy named Cornelis Joppenszoon that found a hotpot (hutspot) in the deserted Spanish army camp Schans Lammen (near the current Lammebrug) and informed the citizens that Leiden had been freed. It was early morning when the Geuzen sailed over the Vliet into the city with a load of herring and white bread on board.
As a token of appreciation for the city’s brave resistance, William of Orange founded the University of Leiden on February 8, 1575.

Many people who work in Leiden have a day off on October 3. The 3 October Vereeniging (3 October Foundation) organises all the official events that take place every year on October 3 (or October 4 if the 3rd happens to be on a Sunday).

Every year, early in the morning the reveille takes place and herring and white bread is handed out. In the afternoon, a large procession takes place and at night the celebration is ended with a fireworks spectacle. A sizeable funfair and a festive wares market are spread out throughout town from the 1st or 2nd of October. The kick off for the October 3 celebrations takes place on the night of October 2 when a number of Leiden-based societies traditionally organise a procession which is fondly referred to as the Taptoe. The October 3 celebration is aired live on radio in Leiden and the surrounding towns.

Date: 2, 3 and 4 October
Location: Leiden city centre
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