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Six university buildings you can visit on the Open Monument Days

Of the 32 historic buildings that are opening their doors to the public on the Open Monument Days on 8 and 9 September, five are University buildings. The Hortus Botanicus is also open.

Whatever theme is chosen for the Leiden Open Monuments Day, it always touches on the university and its buildings. That's why there are always university buildings to visit.

This year the theme is In Europe. Visitors can look for links that connect Leiden with Europe. Among the oldest traces of Europe in Leiden are those of the Romans in Park Matilo. Although Leiden University is too young to be rooted in the Roman time, it has reached a venerable age, as have many of its buildings. There are many links with Europe; from its foundation, the university has  attracted international academmics and students, and Europe is studied here in many different forms.  

The Open Monument Days also include lectures and all kinds of other activities. See the right-hand column for the full programme. 

Public hangings took place in Gravensteen up until 1853.


This sanctuary for the counts of Holland also served as a prison. It was one of the first brick buildings in Leiden. Until 1853, public hangings took place here. The last person to be hanged was Janus van der Blom, who was sentenced to death for murdering a young country girl.  The accusers and the judges could watch the executions from the gallery. There is a mark on the wall at the place where the executions took place, on the Gerecht side. The prison had cells for different levels and classes of offenders; the riff-raff were held  in the cells bordering the courtyard the so that they could hear the punishment that awaited them through the windows high in the roof. The university currently leases the building from the municipality of Leiden.  

Read more on the website of the Open Monument Days

Rapenburg 61,  Snouck Hurgronje House
The building shows traces of different building styles.

Snouck Hurgronje House

Rapenburg 61 is named after the Arab specialist and Islam expert  Professor Christiaan Snouck Hurgronje (1857-1936), who bought the house on his return from the Middle East. When he died, in 1936, the house became the property of the Leiden University Fund (LUF). Around five years ago, the LUF moved to the Administration Office  at Rapenburg 70.  The Snouck Hurgronje House was then sold to Zandbergen Management and Investment Company.  

Snouck Hurgronje studied Theology and Semitic languages. His marriage to an indigenous woman produced four children, who live in Indonesia. He undertook the pilgrimage to Mecca, one of the five pillars of Islam. having already obtained his doctorate cum laude at the age of 23 in Leiden based on this subject. On his way to Mecca, however, he was unmasked as a non-Muslim.  

The premises have been renovated several times and traces of different building styles, including roccoco, can be seen.

Read more on the site of the Open Monument Days

Academy Building
The use of colour now matches the colours used by master builder Jacobus van Lokhorst.

The Academy Building

Fans never tire of the Academy Building. During the renovation and restoration that were completed in 2009, extensive colour-historical research was done to map out the paintwork from earlier times. A good detective can discover small keyholes throughout the building where the original colours and templates have been exposed. The use of colour today is in line with that of the period from 1878-1887, when government architect Jacobus van Lokhorst also renovated the Academy Building. But there is no lack of modern accents, such as the carpet in the Senate chamber and the Lecturers' Room. Designer and former professor of Typography in Leiden, Gerard Unger, chose a colour combination of bright purple with bright pink. Specially for the restoration and renovation he designed the Leiden Font that was worked into the carpet and elsewhere in the Academy Building. 

On the wall beside the spiral starcase student Victor de Stuer sketched images from student life.  This series will shortly be extended to include images of present-day student life by imagaed in charcoal that portray student life, by artist Uri Ruff.

Read more on the website of the Open Monument Days

P.J. Veth Building
Respect the old and welcome the new...

P.J. Veth Building

The P.J. Veth Building is an example of a successful combination of respecting the old and welcoming the new; old buildings that are no longer in use are dead buildings, but fortunately they can be adapted and brought up to date. The building was constructed around a hundred years ago.  One part became the Botanical Laboratory and the other, the National Herbarium. For a long time this was the home of non-Western languages and cultures. This splendid building, between the Nonnensteeg and the Hortus Botanicus, is easy to miss. But that would be a pity. Visitors to the Open Monument Days can view the so-called bel etage, accessible from the external stairs. From here, visitors have a good view of the ingenious means by which architects have managed to blend the different architectural elements of the botanical lab and the Herbarium.  

Read more on the website of the Open Monument Days

Hortus botanicus
The reconstruction of the original garden, immediately opposite the entrance.

Hortus Botanicus

The Hortus Botanicus in Leiden is the oldest in the Netherlands.  Carolus Clusius, the man who brought the tulip to the Netherlands, created the garden in 1590, fifteen years after the university was founded. At that time the garden was much smaller, as can be seen from the reconstruction of the original garden, opposite the entrance gate. The garden has been extended several times over the centuries, although the Hortus also had to cede ground to the  Observatory.
The tropical greenhouse dates from the 1930s and was restored in 2013, although traces of the original construction can still be seen in the glass panelling. There was an enormous heat loss from the  original building, so the renovation and reconstruction are expected to generate considerable energy savings. The Orangery and  the workshop were built in 1744. The newest building is the Winter Garden dating from 2000, that also houses the grand cafĂ©, the ticket office and the Hortus shop. 

But the real jewels of the Hortus Botanicus are of course the collections and the young plants and trees, native and foreign, that create the atmosphere of calm and peace in the heart of the city.

Read more on the site of the Open Monument Days.

What we now call the Old Observatory, was in Kaiser's time state of the art.

Old Observatory

The presence of the Old Observatory is completely due to Frederik Kaiser who worked tirelessly to bring it about. Before then, the Leiden Observatory was simply a construction on the roof of the Academy Building. The 6mm telescope that can still be seen was still in use when astronomical observations were still made from the Academy Building. The seat for the large 10mm telescope is still the original on which Einstein himself sat. What we now call the Old Sterrewacht was in Kaiser's time absolutely state of the art, and it propelled astronomy in Leiden to great heights. And even today the Leiden Observatory is one of the world's leading astronomical institutions. Just this week, on 4 September, astronomer Ewine van Dishoeck was presented with the Kavli Prize, regarded as the Nobel Prize for astronomy.

Read more on the website of the Open Monument Days

Text: Corine Hendriks/Open Monument Days Leiden
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