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  • Writer's pictureErik Sadao

We love Deventer!

Deventer has become one of our favorite cities in the Netherlands. Small, charming, and rich in history and culture, it is essential for understanding important milestones such as the Reformation and, of course, the aura of freedom, an intangible heritage of the Netherlands.

Deventer and the Hanseatic League

Located east of Amsterdam, Deventer was part of the Hanseatic League, the medieval Germanic trade route ensuring commerce between central Europe, the Baltic, and Scandinavia. Before Amsterdam became the world's most powerful port in the 17th century, Deventer competed with centers like Venice and Bruges, attracting merchants from all over Europe.

Geert Groote and the Reformation

In the late 14th century, Geert Groote, born in Deventer, founded the “Brethren of the Common Life,” the foundation of the “Modern Devotion” movement followed by Thomas Kempis, which later influenced reformers like Luther and Calvin. Groote studied in Paris and Cologne, preaching in various cities, including Amsterdam and Haarlem, attracting large crowds with his sermons. The Brethren of the Common Life emerged two centuries after Saint Francis of Assisi and two centuries before Luther's 95 Theses were published, significantly impacting pre-Reformation Catholic brotherhoods in the Netherlands.


Gutenberg's Press in Deventer

The invention of Gutenberg's press revolutionized book production in the 15th century and found fertile ground in Hanseatic League cities like Deventer. The city, being a prosperous commercial center, strategically installed the first presses, facilitating the rapid dissemination of ideas and knowledge. The ability to print texts in mass transformed Deventer into an important center for printing and publishing, contributing to the cultural and intellectual advancement of the Netherlands and strengthening its role in European trade.



Art and Forgeries

Deventer also has a rich artistic tradition. Gerard ter Borch, a famous 17th-century painter, made his name in the city, creating realistic portraits of the merchant bourgeoisie. Half a century earlier, Hendrick ter Brugghen brought to the region the techniques learned by the Utrecht School after a mission undertaken by Dutch painters in Italy, such as Caravaggism, the foundation of the chiaroscuro immortalized in art history by Dutch Baroque.


Curiously, Deventer was involved in a notorious art forgery case: Han van Meegeren sold a fake Last Supper, attributed to Vermeer, to the Nazis during World War II, one of the greatest art frauds in history. Suspected of supporting the Nazi regime, the painter was forced to repaint the entire work, including aging techniques and creating Vermeer's unmistakable blue pigments, to reduce his sentence.


Charles Dickens and the Literary Festival

A remnant of its past as an important printing center, Deventer is still known for its love of literature. Various literary festivals are held in the city annually, including one that honors Charles Dickens. During the event, the streets of Deventer transform into a Victorian setting, with characters from Dickens' books coming to life, providing a unique and magical experience for visitors.


Fans of the author of "Great Expectations" can also visit a small museum dedicated to his work, with original old prints and memorabilia relating to his characters. Located in the small and almost secret Wall Street, a name borrowed by the Dutch for New York's most famous area, it is also worth a visit for the charming art galleries in the vicinity.



University Life

 Today, Deventer is also a vibrant university center. The presence of academic institutions brings a youthful and dynamic energy to the city, with cultural and academic events complementing the rich historical heritage. Like any student city, it is filled with charming bars, restaurants, and cafes, as well as interesting shops from local designers.

Windmills and the IJssel River Landscapes

The windmills along the IJssel River are some of the most enchanting landscapes in the Netherlands. These historic windmills, besides being an iconic part of the country's scenery, tell the story of Dutch ingenuity and tradition in water management and agriculture.

Sapiens Travel Review

Deventer, with its rich history, vibrant culture, and stunning landscapes, is a city that deserves to be explored. Its importance in the Reformation, its role in the Hanseatic League, its artistic contributions, and literary festivals make it a fascinating destination for any traveler interested in delving into the history of the Netherlands.







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