Zaltbommel: fortified town on the Waal River

The fortified town of Zaltbommel is located just south of the Waal river in the southwest of the province of Gelderland. The city is more than a thousand years old. In the year 850, ‘Bomela’, the name at that time, was already being spoken of. History is palpable everywhere in the city of Zaltbommel. Especially in the part with the city walls you will come across many old sights, such as the stubby tower without a spire, the Waalkade and the Medieval city walls themselves. As of January 1, 2017, Zaltbommel had 12,137 inhabitants. Today the city also attracts many young people with the construction of the Waluwe district and the Binnenvergt district. People have known the city of Zaltbommel for more than a thousand years. The city used to be called ‘Bommel’, but even today the name is still used. The oldest form of the city’s name is ‘Bomela’ or ‘Bomelo’. It is a combination of the words ‘boom’ and ‘lo’. Lo represents a deciduous forest on a rise in a swampy area. In Zaltbommel this is of course the embankment of the Waal river. In 1297 Bommel was given the prefix ‘Salt’. This was because of the salt trade, which was important in Bommel. This also distinguished Zaltbommel from Maasbommel.

History of Zaltbommel

In the year 850 ‘Bomela’ was no more than a small settlement, but when the city received toll and coin rights in 999, it grew into an important trading center. Zaltbommel received city rights in 1231 and the city walls were built in 1315.
In 1572 the city council of Zaltbommel sided with the Geuzen and therefore against the Spaniards. They responded by attacking the city twice. In both 1574 and 1599, the Spanish failed to gain control of the city.
The inhabitants of Zaltbommel were mainly involved in trade and industry. Zaltbommel was in a favorable location for the transit of goods. When a sandbank began to form in the Waal River in the 17th century, the city’s port function declined.
Martinus Nijhoff Bridge / Source: Robkemme, Flickr (CC BY-SA-2.0) Industrialization got underway in the mid-19th century. This also started the construction of a railway bridge that opened in 1869. The railway bridge connected Zaltbommel with places on the other side of the Waal. A road bridge over the river was used for the first time in 1933, after years of using ferries to cross the water. The Martinus Nijhoff Bridge that currently spans the Waal was opened in 1996.

Sights

Martinus Nijhoff bridge

The Martinus Nijhoff Bridge is apparently one of the most famous sights of Zaltbommel. The bridge connects Zaltbommel with the places on the other side of the Waal river. The A2 motorway is across the bridge. The bridge was opened by Minister Jorritsma on January 18, 1996. The name of the bridge comes from poet Martinus Nijhoff, who wrote in one of his poems that he went to see the new bridge in Zaltbommel.

St. Martin’s Church

The basilica of Zaltbommel is best known for its stubby tower without a spire. Originally the tower had a spire of over thirty meters high, but the spire caught fire due to a lightning strike in 1538. In the year 1708 they wanted to continue with the construction of a new spire. However, this was never completed. In the twentieth century, the substructure of the new spire was removed. St. Martin’s Church is one of the best preserved examples of Lower Rhine Gothic.

The city castle

The city castle, which is also called the Maarten van Rossum House, was built around 1535 by order of the Gelderland warlord Maarten van Rossum. The building was intended as a gatehouse to a larger house, but they did not progress beyond the construction of the city castle. The building used to be used by a cantonal court, but nowadays it is used as a museum. The museum features utensils from antiquity in Zaltbommel. Stories about the history of the Bommelerwaard, the area around Zaltbommel, are also told and illustrations by Fiep Westendorp, born in Zaltbommel, can be viewed.

The old water tower

In 1905 Jan Schotel had the old water tower built. The building has a height of 21 meters and previously contained a water reservoir of 50 square meters and a clean water cellar of 6 meters deep. After 1960, the water tower was no longer used as intended. It became a weekend residence and later in 2000 it was converted into a house. The surrounding land of the old water tower is also used as a tea garden.

The Waalkade

From the Waalkade you have a beautiful view of the Waal river, as well as the Martinus Nijhoff bridge over which the A2 highway passes. There are several restaurants with terraces, where you can have a snack and drink in the summer. But there is also plenty to see on the Waalkade in winter with the passing ships and pleasure yachts.

Gutter ghosts

Artist Joris Baudoin, who comes from Zaltbommel, made statues of terrazzo that were placed in the gutter. The images told something about the inhabitants or the origins of the house. Usually they were animals, like the pig at the Stadscafé Zaltbommel. The gutter ghosts can still be viewed.

Medieval wall

The medieval wall that used to surround the city has been partly preserved. One of the gates in the wall has been preserved. This is the water gate. The actual gate has partly been preserved between wall houses, the rest was built later.

St. Martin’s Church

The Roman Catholic church of Zaltbommel was built in 1837 according to a design by E. Kroon. The church is a water management church, a church that was built with financial support from the national government. At a later stage the church was enlarged and only the original central nave was retained. The bell tower of the church is made of wood with an open dome on top.

Accessibility

Zaltbommel can be reached by car via the A2 motorway. You can also get to Zaltbommel via the N322 motorway. If you want to go to the city by public transport, you can use the train. This station is located on the Utrecht-‘s Hertogenbosch railway line. Various local buses run through the city itself, driven by volunteers.