Fort De Schans and the supporting forts Redoute and Lunette on Texel

Southwest of Oudeschild we find the remains of a military fort from the 16th century: Fort De Schans. It was none other than William of Orange who had the fort built. After the fort was expanded several times in the 17th and 18th centuries, Napoleon also became involved with Fort De Schans. He had two more supporting forts built: Fort Redoute and Fort Lunette. Natuurmonumenten restored these forts and they are now freely accessible to everyone.

A fortress as defense against the Spaniards

The history of Fort De Schans goes back to the 16th century. At that time, cities such as Amsterdam, Volendam, Hoorn, Enkhuizen and Kampen were located on the Zuiderzee. Ships had to sail across the Marsdiep between the mainland and the island of Texel to reach the port cities on the Zuiderzee. The southeastern side of the island of Texel was strategically of great importance to control the Marsdiep, and thus the access to the Zuiderzee.
Prince William of Orange, in conflict with the Spanish rulers, therefore ordered in 1574 to build a military fort at this strategic location on the island of Texel. It became a star-shaped fortress with five bastions, surrounded by a moat.
In the beginning there were only about twenty soldiers stationed in the fort. This number increased steadily at the end of the 16th century and the beginning of the 17th century. The military importance of the fort increased. At the beginning of 1603, there were 50 soldiers present in De Schans, but in the course of the same year this number increased to 113.

During the Golden Age

In 1602, the Dutch East India Company (VOC) was founded and this heralded the start of the Dutch Golden Age. The VOC trading ships sailed via the Zuiderzee to the North Sea and moored at the Texel roadstead (the coastal area southwest of Oudeschild) to stock up on water and provisions. Fort De Schans was of great military importance to protect the trading ships against possible enemy attacks. Over the course of the 17th century, the fort was expanded with gates, barracks and a powder magazine.

Visit from Napoleon

Emperor Napoleon himself visited Fort De Schans on October 16, 1811. The Netherlands was then dominated by France. Napoleon wanted to build a series of defenses along the European coast to repel a possible attack by English troops.
Fort De Schans, strategically located at the entrance to the Zuiderzee, was an important military support point in the eyes of the emperor. In his own handwritten Note sur lÎle de Texel, he ordered the construction of two supporting forts in the vicinity of De Schans. These became the satellite forts Redoute and Lunette. Lunette is located approximately 700 meters east and Redoute approximately 400 meters west of De Schans.

Decline of the forts

After the Napoleonic period, De Schans, together with its supporting forts, fell into disrepair. Ships sailing from the North Sea to Amsterdam could now use the Noordhollandsch Kanaal (dug from 1819 to 1824) and the Noordzeekanaal (built from 1865 to 1876). The military importance of the fort on the Marsdiep diminished considerably.
The forts were officially abolished as military fortifications in 1922. In 1933, the earthen walls of Redoute and Lunette were excavated, because the soil could be used to strengthen the nearby dikes. Only the canals remained present in the landscape. Two bastions were also excavated from the main fort De Schans.

Restoration of the forts

In 1992, Natuurmonumenten started restoring the forts, divided into several phases. During that restoration, various remains of the former activities in the forts were found. Some of these archaeological finds can be viewed in the Kaap Skil museum in Oudeschild.
Fort De Schans was restored as much as possible to the building state it was in during the French period (1795-1813). A number of parts were re-bricked: the entrance gate, two wells and the ravelin wall. The restoration was completed in September 2002. Since then, the fort can be visited freely.
Natuurmonumenten restored the earthen walls of the secondary forts Lunette and Redoute in 2010. These forts are also visible in the landscape again. The supporting fortress Lunette can be reached via a bridge over the moat. Redoute fulfills a natural function and is now the habitat of a number of special plants, small mammals, birds and insects.

Guns flown over by helicopter

Antique cannons from 1809 can be admired at both Fort De Schans and Support Fort Lunette. These cannons were loaned by the Den Helder Naval Museum. Because it was difficult to bring these antique pieces, each weighing 4,000 kg, to site with trucks and cranes, a Chinook helicopter was deployed. The transfer of the guns by helicopter on September 6, 2012 attracted many spectators.

Visit to the forts and activities

Forts De Schans and Lunette can be visited for free from sunrise to sunset. Anyone interested in visiting the forts with a guide can contact the Kaap Skil museum in Oudeschild.
Many activities take place in and around Fort De Schans, including the annual Midzomerschans festival on June 21 and 22. Walkers and cyclists will also get their money’s worth. The 34.9 km long Texel cycle route passes Fort De Schans. The North Cape-Texel walking route (5.5 km) also passes the historic fort.
After a long period of decay and neglect, Fort De Schans, together with the supporting forts Lunette and Redoute, is back in the spotlight.

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