Cattedrale di San Giovanni

Città dei Paesi Bassi (90.600 abitanti, 195.000 abitanti l'agglomerato urbano), capoluogo della provincia del Brabante Settentrionale, 30 km a NNW di Eindhoven, alla confluenza del fiume Dommel nel canale Zuid Willemsvaart. Importante centro commerciale e nodo di comunicazioni, è sede di grandi industrie tessili, metalmeccaniche, chimiche, farmaceutiche, del tabacco, alimentari, calzaturiere e grafico-editoriali.

In olandese è chiamata anche Den Bosch in quanto è la foresta del duca Enrico I del Brabante che nel 1185 le concesse lo status di città e i privilegi commerciali connessi. In italiano è detta Boscoducale e in tedesco Herzogenbusch.

The city of 's-Hertogenbosch

The city's official name is a contraction of the Dutch des Hertogen bosch - "the Duke's forest". The duke in question was Henry I, Duke of Brabant, whose house then for at least four centuries had had a large estate at nearby Orthen. He founded a new town located on some afforested dunes in the middle of a marsh. At age 26, he granted 's-Hertogenbosch city rights and the corresponding trade privileges in 1185. This is however the traditional date given by later chroniclers; the first mention in contemporaneous sources is in 1196. The original charter has been lost. His reason for doing so was to protect his own interest against Gelre and Holland: the city from the very beginning was conceived as a fortress town. It was destroyed in 1203 by a joint expedition of Gelre and Holland but soon rebuilt. Of the original stone city walls still some remnants can be seen. Around 1475 a much larger wall was erected to protect the greatly expanded settled area. Artificial waterways were dug to serve as a city moat; through them the rivers Dommel and Aa were led.

Until 1520, the city flourished: it then was the second largest population centre at the territory of the present Netherlands, after Utrecht. It was also the birthplace and home of one of the greatest painters of the northern renaissance, Hieronymus Bosch (c. 1450 – 1516). The wars of the Reformation would soon change the course of the city. It became an independent bishopric. During the Eighty Years' War the city took the side of the Habsburg authorities. A Calvinist coup was thwarted. It was besieged several times by Prince Maurice of Orange, stadtholder of Holland, who wanted to put 's-Hertogenbosch under the rule of the rebel United Provinces. Afterwards the fortifications were greatly expanded. As the surrounding marshes made a siege of the conventional type impossible, the fortress was deemed impregnable and nicknamed the Marsh Dragon. The town was nevertheless finally conquered by Frederik Hendrik of Orange in 1629 in a typically Dutch way: he diverted the rivers Dommel and Aa, created a polder by constructing a forty kilometre dyke and then pumped out the water by mills. After a siege of three months, the city had to surrender, an enormous blow to Habsburg strategy during the Thirty Years' War. This cut the town off from the rest of the duchy. The area was treated by the Republic as an occupation zone without political liberties. The fortifications were again expanded. In 1672, the Dutch rampjaar, the city held against the army of Louis XIV. In 1794, French revolutionary troops under command of Charles Pichegru took the city with hardly a fight: in the Batavian Republic both Catholics and Brabanders at last gained equal rights.

From 1806, the city was part of France. It was captured by the Prussians in 1814. The next year, when the United Kingdom of the Netherlands was established, it became the capital of North Brabant. Many new more modern fortresses were created in the vicinity of the city. Until 1878 it was forbidden to build outside the ramparts. This led to overcrowding and the highest infant mortality in the kingdom. The very conservative city government prevented industrial investment — they didn't want a growth in the number of workers — and even the establishment of educational institutions — even students being too disorderly. Therefore the relative importance of the city diminished. In World War II it was liberated from 24 to 27 October 1944 by the 53rd (Welsh) Division. After the war, plans were made to modernise the old city, by filling in the canals, slighting some ramparts and reconstructing historic neighbourhoods. Before these plans could come to effect however, the central government declared the city a protected townscape. Most historic elements have thereby been preserved.

's-Hertogenbosch was founded as a fortified city and that heritage can still be seen today. Because the main ramparts are crucial in keeping out the water, they have never been slighted, their usual fate in The Netherlands. In contrast to cities like Rotterdam, 's-Hertogenbosch survived the Second World War relatively unscathed. Much of its historic heritage remains intact, and today there are always renovations going on in the city to preserve the many old buildings, fortifications, churches and statues for later generations. In 2004 the city was awarded the title European Fortress City of the year. It is planned to restore the city defences to much of their old glory in the coming years. 's-Hertogenbosch also has the oldest extant brick house in The Netherlands, 'de Moriaan', which was built at the beginning of the 13th century. In the north of the old city, the hexagonal powder arsenal, or Kruithuis, still exists, one of only two of its kind in the country. The Townhall is a 17th century building, erected in the typical style of Dutch classicism. Around the city itself many other fortresses can still be seen. Until recently it was a major garrison town.

The old city of 's-Hertogenbosch is still almost completely surrounded by continuous ramparts. On the south side, this wall still borders on an old polder, kept intact as a nature reserve, that stretches all the way to Vught. These city walls are currently undergoing renovations. Hidden below the old city is a canal network called the Binnendieze that once spanned 22 kilometres. It started out as a regular river, the Dommel, running through the city in medieval times but due to lack of space in the city, people started building their houses and roads over the river. In later times it functioned as a sewer and fell into disrepair. In recent decades, the remaining sixth of the old waterway system has been renovated, and it is possible to take several guided subterranean boat trips through it.

's-Hertogenbosch is also home to Saint John's Cathedral (Sint Jans kathedraal in Dutch) which is said to be one of the most beautiful cathedrals in The Netherlands. The Cathedral dates from circa 1220 and is best known for its (Brabantian) gothic design and the many sculptures of craftsmen that are sitting on almost every arc and rim along the outside of the cathedral. At the time of writing, the cathedral is being extensively renovated to undo the damage of many years of wear-and-tear and acid rain.

The city of 's-Hertogenbosch has become a centre of industry, education, administration and culture. It is currently the fourth city of Noord Brabant. It is home to many national and international businesses such as Heineken, Tyco International and many others. As a cultural centre, it is also home to a variety of events such as the theatre festival Boulevard, Jazz in Duketown, the start of the Tour de France (1996), Tour Feminine (1997), the International Vocal Competition and the Ordina Open (in the nearby town of Rosmalen). There are also over 350 restaurants, pubs and cafés to be found in the city.

One of the few official Nazi concentration camp complexes in western Europe located outside of Germany and Austria was named after 's-Hertogenbosch. It operated from January, 1943, to September, 1944 and was known to the Germans as Herzogenbusch (see List of subcamps of Herzogenbusch). About 30,000 inmates were interned in the complex during this time, of whom about 12,000 were Jews. In The Netherlands, this camp is known as 'Kamp Vught', because the concentration camp was actually located in Vught, a village a few kilometres south of 's-Hertogenbosch. In a tragic coincidence, the entire Jewish population of 's-Hertogenbosch was burnt alive on the same heath in the 13th century.