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Vleeshal Haarlem


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Located about 20km from the capital city of Amsterdam, Haarlem is one of Holland's most attractive cities.

The name Haarlem comes from 'Haarlo-heim', which meant village on higher ground. It all started with some hunters' encampments on a beachhead on the western coast of Holland, at the intersection of an old overland trade route and a corner of a large lake giving easy access to inland waterways.

Once the seat of the Dukes of Holland, Haarlem went from being a mediaeval court with squabbling nobles to being an important centre for beer brewing and the linen and silk trades, drawing enormously on the expertise brought to the town by Flemings (fleeing the Eighty Years War) from the end of the 16th century onwards.

The Vleeshal ("Meat Market")

De Vleeshal was built in the years 1602 to 1605. As the name indicates, the building was originally a ‘meat hall’: the place where butchers sold their wares.The heads of bulls and rams on the façades are reminders of the original function of the building.

De Vleeshal is an excellent example of the Dutch renaissance, with renaissance ornaments being applied on a basic Gothic structure (floor plan and outer walls).

The renaissance forms include pilasters, rustica, Tuscan (interior) pillars, scrollwork (above the cellar entrances) and obelisks. Sample prints by Hans Vredeman de Vries from Antwerp provided a source of inspiration for this.

De Vleeshal was built by Lieven de Key, the town architect, commissioned by the city government. Everything points to the fact that the Haarlem municipal treasury was well filled at the beginning of the 17th century. Ground was purchased on the Grote Markt, an expensive proposition. Lieven de Key had been commissioned to make a design for the building. He made two; the city government chose the most beautiful and most expensive one. It appears that De Vleeshal had to become a prestige object. In 1605 the butchers moved into the building. They paid high rent for their prestigious accommodation: thirty guilders per year per butcher. There were very strict rules about what could go on in the hall. No slaughtering was allowed there, nor walking, and it was forbidden to bring in dogs under penalty of a fine, and no one could play with a top, hoop or marbles.

The meat hall remained a place to sell meat all the way into the 19th century.The building later fulfilled a totally different function; from 1840 to 1885 it served as a storehouse for a garrison quartered in Haarlem. Later the building served as a Public Records Office, and after that as a depot for the municipal library. During the Second World War the building was occupied by the Distribution Service. After the war, the Mayor and Aldermen decreed that the building should become an exhibition hall, and it has remained so until today. The Frans Hals Museum organises alternating exhibitions of contemporary art on two storeys, and the Archeological Museum is in the cellar.



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