Fort Kuijkduin has seen many changes since it’s formative days as a single story series of complex tunnels and bunkers.
Over time more layers were added, the fortifications increased and the size of the site changed as war, and the defences needed against enemies changed.
The complex tunnel system (or at least some of them) are open to the public, but accessible only by staircases, so out of reach for me and any other less able-bodied visitors.
Although I missed this section of the complex there is still plenty more to enjoy on the upper levels and if you really wanted to stop and look at everything in absolute detail, then one visit here would not be enough.
Models, diagrams, historical artifacts and more abound.
In the first hall that I enter, a mannequin figure in one of the alcove cells immediately gives me the impression of a famous painting by Goya and indeed I find out that this is no coincidence. I studied this painting in my Art History days of youth.
With my study notes long gone I found this excellent background:
“In 1807 Napoleon offered an alliance with Charles IV of Spain in order to conquor Portugal. Napoleon’s troops poured into Spain, supposedly just passing through. However the alliance was a trick: The French were taking over and Joseph Bonaparte, Napoleon’s brother, was now the new King of Spain.
On May 02 1808 hundreds of Spaniards rebelled. Unsuccessful, these freedom fighters were rounded up and massacred by the French. Their blood literally ran through the streets of Madrid. Goya, although having French sympathies in the past, was appalled by these events and commemorated the uprising in two paintings, the most famous of which being “Third of May 1808”.
To discover why this exhibit is here I read from an information board:
“On 02 May 1808 the Spanish people stood up against the French but their attempt was unsuccessful. The painter Francisco de Goya made a moving painting about the mass execution that followed.
Many (Spaniards) were made prisoner of war and were forced to work on all sorts of large projects throughout the French empire. One of the persons depicted being executed in this painting is a symbol for all of the prisoners of war who were transported here and forced to dig out Fort Kijkduin.” I had no clue that this connection existed. It’s a sobering thought, not just for the Spanish who lost their lives but also for those and all the other prisoners who were forced into hard labour both at home and abroad.
Fort Kijkduin, situation 1812, lighthouse removed 1822…
Fort Kijkduin, situation 1990…