Consciously or not, all inhabitants en visitors of the province Noord-Holland have come in touch with the Stelling van Amsterdam. The Stelling van Amsterdam is a 135km line of defense built between 1880 and 1914 to protect the capital.
The army, the government and the king/queen would be able to retreat inside this ring in case of an attack on the Netherlands. The Stelling consists of 46 forts, dykes and sluices on a 15-20 km distance from the capital. The idea behind the Stelling of Amsterdam is a case of Dutch hydraulic engineering genius. With the use of a clever system, the land surrounding the line could be put under water, creating a pond; not deep enough for ships but too deep for man and horse. Even before the Stelling was completed, it was outdated. The rise of the airplane robbe the line of its purpose. During the two world wars the Stelling was prepared to be in a state of defense, but no actual fighting occured. Nowadays a great number of forts has been given a new purpose.
The Stelling carries the title ‘National Landscape’ since 2005. The Netherlands has a total of twenty National Landscapes. Each of these has a unique combination of cultural-historic and natural elements and tells the story of the Dutch landscape. A stone’s throw from Holland’s hectic capital, the ‘Stelling’ is also set in a surprisingly green landscape that offers beautiful spots of tranquillity.
The entire Defence Line of Amsterdam is protected by the Province of North Holland and the Dutch government as a monument. In 1996 the UNESCO officially recognized the importance of this historical Dutch defence system by including the ‘Stelling’ in the list of UNESCO World Heritage sites. Other sites featured on this list are, amongst others, the Great Wall of China, the pyramids of Giza (Egypt), Grand Canyon National Park (USA), Mont-Saint-Michel (France) and Cologne Cathedral (Germany). Amongst the other Dutch monuments with a UNESCO World Heritage status are the Rietveld Schröder House, the Wadden Sea, the Beemster Polder and the 17th century canal ring area of Amsterdam.
The intention is that the Hollandse Waterlinie, as an extension of the Defense Line of Amsterdam, will also be given the title of World Heritage. The nomination file for this will be presented to UNESCO in Paris in January 2019. Decision-making is expected in Summer 2021. Then both lines will continue together as one World Heritage Site: the Hollandse Waterlinies.