In these two university cities, at a mutual distance of only 23 kilometers, the intellectual and cultural tradition of Europe is vividly present. The architecture and cultural heritage of the cities creates an atmosphere in which students, intellectuals and innovators feel at home to go beyond the past. A scholarly study at Delft and Leiden means getting personally better trained, generating new science and technology, and being exposed to this unique European cultural heritage.
Delft as a city dates back to the 13th century. It received its charter in 1246. Leiden claims a connection with the Roman Lugdunum Batavorum, although this is actually the modern town of Katwijk, the Roman settlement near modern Leiden was called Matilo. Leiden formed on an artificial hill at the confluence of the rivers Oude and Nieuwe Rijn (Old and New Rhine). In the oldest reference to this, from circa 860, the settlement was called Leithon.
Delft and Leiden are both intimately connected with the Dutch revolt against Spanish rule and an association with the House of Orange. For Delft this association began when William of Orange (Willem van Oranje), nicknamed William the Silent (Willem de Zwijger), took up residence there in 1572. Delft was one of the leading cities of Holland and was equipped with the necessary city walls to serve as a headquarters. William was the leader at the time in the struggle against the Spanish, the Eighty Years' War. Leiden sided in the same year with the Dutch revolt against Spanish rule and played an important role in this Eighty Years' War. Besieged from May until October 1574 by the Spanish, Leiden was relieved by the cutting of the dikes, thus enabling ships to carry provisions to the inhabitants of the flooded town.
As a reward for the heroic defence of the previous year, the University of Leiden was founded by William I of Orange in 1575. Yearly on October 3, the end of the siege is still celebrated in Leiden. Tradition tells that the citizens were offered the choice between a university and a certain exemption from taxes. When William was shot to death in 1584 by Balthazar Gerards in the hall of the Prinsenhof at Delft, the family's traditional burial place in Breda was in the hands of the Spanish. He was buried in the Nieuwe Kerk (New Church), starting a tradition for the House of Orange that has continued to the present day. Leiden is also known as the place where the Pilgrims (as well as some of the first settlers of New Amsterdam) lived for a time in the early 17th century before their departure to Massachusetts and New Amsterdam in the New World, traveling along the canal called de Vliet and Schie, passing Delft and departing from Delfshaven for the New World.
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