By: Matthaus Merian
Date: Frankfurt (published) 1638
Dimensions: 11 x 14 inches (28 x 35.6 cm)
This fascinating bird’s eye view depicts the city of Groningen, Netherlands, as it was in the early 17th century. Ideally positioned on the coast of the Wadden Sea, Groningen and its environs have been inhabited for untold millennia, and survived innumerable changes of governance. The city proper was built on the site of a Roman camp in the 10th century CE.
Groningen’s modern history is documented from the year 1040 CE, when German King Henry III named the city in writing and gave it to the bishopric of Utrecht. In 1239 the thriving city was granted the privilege of joining the powerful German Hanseatic League (Hansa). The League provided protection and promoted commercial ties to its 200-plus members, cities ranging from northwestern to northeastern Europe, even extending into some Russian territory. While the majority of members were coastal cities, there were a number of land-bound members as well.
The map shows a highly organized and well defended city. Its defenses included three sets of walls, two moats, and control points along the moats to provide added protection. Windmills are depicted at various points around the periphery of the city. A dock with a number of vessels anchored is shown at one entrance, and at another within the city walls. Smaller communities neighboring the city are also well protected. Merian’s map suggests that agricultural enterprises were active on the outskirts of the city.
Important sites are enumerated in a numbered key in the lower left quadrant of the map. This includes churches, ports, cloisters, the cathedral and of course the city’s Rathaus, or Town Hall, the building which housed the city’s government.
The map is embellished with a coat of arms, and an ornamental compass rose orienting the map to the NE.
Condition: This map is in A condition exhibiting a dark impression on fairly clean paper. Some foxing is apparent, but mostly confined to the margins.