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Achievement of Amsterdam 1555

In the Oude Kerk  of Amsterdam



Seal and  Arms

The Crosses Saltire

The Achievement

Badges of Office



Back to Nederland



Amsterdam has a long and eventful history. The origins of the city lie in the 12th century, when fishermen living along the banks of the River Amstel built a bridge across the waterway near the IJ, which at the time was a large saltwater inlet. Wooden locks under the bridge served as a dam protecting the village from the rising IJ waters, which often flooded the early settlement. The mouth of the river Amstel, where the Damrak is now, formed a natural harbor, which became important for trading-exchange from the larger koggeships into the smaller ships that sailed the merchandise deeper into the hinterland.

The oldest document referring to the settlement of "Aemstelredamme" (Amsterdam) 'dam in the river Amstel' comes from a document dated 27 October 1275 CE. Inhabitants of the village were, by this document, exempted from paying a bridge toll in the County of Holland by Count Floris V


An important year in the history of Amsterdam was 1275. While Aemstelland fell under the administrative jurisdiction of the Prince-Bishopric of Utrecht, Count Floris V of the County of Holland (1256-1296) -the hindland of Aemstelland, granted traders, sailors and fishermen exemption from tolls. This "Gift Letter" document, dated 27 October 1275, is the oldest recorded usage of the name "Aemstelredamme" - Amsterdam. This meant the inhabitants from the vicinity of Aemstelredamme acquired a right to travel freely through the County of Holland without having to pay tolls at bridges, locks, and dams. This was the very start of the later richness of the young evolving city: by not having to pay tolls, traders could sell merchandise, shipped to Aemstelredamme harbour from everywhere (Scandinavia, Denmark, Germany), at a more competitive price in Amsterdam and the hinterland. After the murder of Count Floris V in 1296, Amstelland again belonged to the Sticht. By 1327, the name had developed into Aemsterdam.

The text of the privilege reads:


Florens, grave van hollant, doen condt ende kenlic alle luden, dat wij onzen luden van Amestelledamme overmidseen versettinghe hoirre scade die wij ende onze lude hem ghedaen hebben Soe gheven wij hem tollenvrij te varen mit horen eyghen goeden wair dat zij doir onzen lande varen of keren. In oirconde der wairheyt soe hebben wij dezen brief besegelt mit onzen zegele. Gegeven tot Leyden des sonnen dages voir sinte Symons ende juden dach apostelen int jare ons heren MCC ende LXXV."



After Amsterdam had been granted city rights in 1275, there was a need for a seal to be able to conclude and seal agreements as a legal entity. The seal depicted here comes from a stamp dated 1654. On board a cog ship, two men stand on either side of the mast, each holding the banner bearing the municipal coat of arms depicting three Andrew's crosses.


Seal and arms

The oldest city seal in Amsterdam dates from the first half of the fourteenth century. It shows a ship with in the mast a coat of arms with a lion, the coat of arms of Holland. Shipping was the most important activity in Amsterdam, and the ship is also central in later stamps. Even the new city stamps from the Golden Age go directly back to the medieval predecessor



First seal of Amsterdam used between 1338 and 1402.

(GA Amsterdam arch. Gasthuizen (342), reg.nr 51. dd. 27.XII. 1393).


Snall ship (hulk) with the coat of arms of the count of Holland in the mast. The figure means: “admiral of Holland” and refers to the toll privilege granted by Count Floris V to the “people who live near the dam in the Amstel”. The levying of tolls on shipping traffic was a count's right that was then (partly) outsourced by Floris V to these 'people'. The collection of import duties and excise duties was later always a task of the admiralties.



The coat of arms of the city of Amsterdam is: Gules, a pale Sable charged with three crosses saltire Argent

A marker with the arms of Amsterdam

First quarter 14th century

Found in 2008 when digging the Damrak for the metropolitan.


Seals of the city of Lubeck and others: Stavoren, Amsterdam (8x), van Amstel, Persijn (..).


This print originates from Jan Wagenaar: ‘Amsterdam, In Zyne Opkomst, Aanwas, Geschiedenissen, Voorregten, Koophandel, Gebouwen, Kerkenstaat, Schoolen, Schutterye, Gilden En Regeeringe.' Published Amsterdam 1760 - 1767.


Three seals of the City of Amsterdam and two counter-seals. 1419


The knight on the aft of the ships bears the arms of the count of Holland from the House of Avesnes (1299-1354)

The arms of Amsterdam first occur on the counterseals of the city The arms on the dexter counterseal is covered with the Imperial crown of Maximilian I granted 1489


Seal of Amsterdam

Polychromized version. Munttoren Amsterdam (1938-‘39)


Polychromized achievement of the Amsterdam seal

Accijnshuis Oude Brugsteeg, Amsterdam (1637-1638)


Old Excise House, Oudebrugsteeg. Built in 1637-1638 in classicist style. It is not known who designed this structure; it is attributed to both Jacob van Campen and Pieter de Keyser. In the Excise House, the five-member board of excise masters collected the excise duties (import duties) that had to be paid for shiploads of, for example, grain, beer, wine, peat, coal and spices. It was the only city college that was not located in the city hall (now Paleis op de Dam). The brick front and side walls have Ionic sandstone pilasters for decoration. The two doors on Oudebrugsteeg have a natural stone frame. Above each door are two carved lions with above the left door the Amsterdam city seal (a cog ship) and above the right door the coat of arms of the city with the three Andrew's crosses. (wikipedia)


The Crosses Saltire

The crosses saltire are of the first greek letter of the name of Christ: C, in itself an abbreviation of the Chistogram XP.  At the beginning of the fourteenth century they were the badge of office of an abbot. As such it was used in Ireland and Scotland where it is known a the cross of St Patrick and the cross of St Andrew Therefore they may refer to the abbey of Egmond which was the burial abbey of the counts of Holland, lords of Amsterdam. As the crosses saltire also occur in the arms  of  Ouderkerk a/d Amstel, Amstelveen and the Persijn family which may also have been granted by the count of Holland and may refer to the Egmond abbey, the abbots of which may have been the confessors of the counts of Holland.

The combination of white crosses on a black ground are the colors of religious authority, in that sense it was also used by the prince archbishop of Cologne/Koeln: Argent, a cross Sable.

Egmond Abbey had a strong relationship with the counts of Holland

St. Adelbert's Abbey is the oldest abbey in Holland, founded at the beginning of the 10th century by Count Dirk I of West Frisia as a wooden nunnery. Dirk I donated the property of the nearby church, which it had received on 15 June 922 from the West Frankish king Charles the Simple, for the aid against rebellious vassals. Dirk I had the body of Adelbert exhumed from the church of Egmond and reburied in the nunnery. According to the Vita S. Adelberti (985), Adelbert himself would have instructed the nun Wulfsit to do this. The abbey developed in the Middle Ages into an important religious and cultural center in West Frisia and then Holland, with an extensive library. The noble house of Egmont originated from the advocati (guardians) of the abbey. Count Dirk II had the wooden nunnery replaced by a stone building and monks came over from the reformed Sint-Pietersabdij in Ghent. After the death of her husband Floris II in 1121, Countess Petronilla of Saxony had the building demolished and replaced by a much larger church. She made her chaplain Ascellinus abbot. In 1129, however, it was necessary to replace this abbot by Wouter from St. Peter's Abbey in Ghent, who had to put things in order. In 1143 the main altar of the new abbey church was consecrated by the Bishop of Utrecht, in the presence of Count Dirk VI and his wife, Countess Sophia.


A more accepted theory is that the crosses are derived from the arms of the Persijn family. That theory reads as follows:


Historians have long assumed that the coat of arms was derived from the coat of arms of the Waterland family of Persijn, which owned a lot of land in and around Amsterdam in the Middle Ages. Between 1280 and 1282 a Jan Persijn was lord of Amsterdam. Other possessions of the Persijn family, Amstelveen (Nieuwer-Amstel) and Ouderkerk a/d Amstel (Ouder-Amstel), carry similar coats of arms that also show great similarities with the Persijn family coat of arms.


Arms Persijn

Seal of Persijn on a drawing on paper: The seals of several persons 1290-1297

By: T.H. Jelgersma. Coll. Kennermerland, Noord-Hollands Archief. [1]


Jan Persijn

Knight Jan Persijn of Velsen (26-12-1283), lord of Waterland and Marken. In 1274 he protected Haarlem against its besiegers and recieved he Lordship of Amserdam as a reward from John of Nassau bisshop elect of Utrecht  He was lord of Amsterdam between 1280 and 1282

Amsterdam 14th century/Waveren 1668/ Ouder Amstel 17th century/Nieuwer Amstel 1815


Even if that was only briefly, it is suspected that the coat of arms of Amsterdam comes from this Jan Persijn. Other possessions of the Persijn family, Amstelveen and Ouderkerk a/d Amstel, have coats of arms that are very similar to the coat of arms of Amsterdam. They just have more St. Andrew's crosses. It could be that the crosses were some kind of markings. Or that they were used as a symbol of justice, you could see from the city coat of arms that the lord of the city was the guarantor of justice. In that case, the meaning of the symbol would go back to the old ecclesiastical meaning. That would also explain that there are more cities in the Netherlands with the Andrew's cross, such as Breda.



Imperial Crown

1489 The Imperial Crown of of the Holy Roman Empire placed upon the escutcheon

During the Hoekse en Kabeljauwse Twisten  in Holland in the 15th century, the Holy Roman Emperor Maximilian I supported the bourgeoisie in the cities in their fight against the nobility in the countryside During these wars Amsterdam loaned large amounts of money to Maximilian I. In 1489, the emperor gave Amsterdam the right to use his personal imperial crown in its coat of arms, out of gratitude for these loans. When his successor Rudolf II created a new personal crown, Amsterdam changed the crown accordingly. After the Reformation, the Protestant Amsterdam continued to use the crown of the Catholic emperor. In 1804, the crown of Rudolf II became the Imperial Crown of the German Nation of the Holy Roman Empire. The Imperial Crown can be found independently at several locations in Amsterdam.


Het Rusland 61 (1608)

Golden lions

The supporters of the escutcheon are two golden lions rampant  The compartment the lions stand on is

a stone pedestal. The lions were added to the coat of arms in the 16th century.


Napoleonic version 1811-1814





Adopted 1811-06-03

Seal [2]


The achievement restored

Drawing Hugo Gerhard Ströhl, 1899


A motto added 1947-03-29


During the 1941 February strike in Amsterdam, non-Jewish people protested against the persecution of Jews by the Nazi regime. The impressed Queen Wilhelmina wanted to remember the role of the citizens of Amsterdam during World War II and created a motto consisting of the Dutch words "HELDHAFTIG, VASTBERADEN, BARMHARTIG", meaning "Valiant, Steadfast, Compassionate". On 29 March 1947, Queen Wilhelmina presented the motto as part of the achievement of Amsterdam.

The motto is written on a silver scroll. This scroll is positioned on top of the compartment under the escutcheon.

At the same time the opportunity was taken to change te model of the crown into the crown of  Emperor Rudolf which was the crown of Austria until the fall of the Habsburg monarchy in 1918.



The Imperial Crown of Austria was made in 1602 in Prague by Jan Vermeyen as the personal crown of Holy Roman Emperor Rudolf II, and therefore is also known as the Crown of Emperor Rudolf II. The crown was used as a private crown of the Holy Roman Emperors and Kings of Hungary and Bohemia from the House of Habsburg. In 1804 it became the official crown of the newly constituted Austrian Empire. After 1867 it remained the imperial crown of the Cisleithanian part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire until 1918.


Badges of Office


Blood Belt


Blood Belt, 1595

Amsterdams Historiach


Such blood belts were worn over the left shoulder by mayors, bailiffs and aldermen from the middle of the sixteenth century when pronouncing and executing a death sentence. They are long strips of red and black velvet on which silver Andrew's crosses have been applied. A silver city coat of arms is attached to the ends of the bands. Under the coat of arms the year 1595. As far as is known, a total of ten blood belts have been preserved, six of which are in the possession of the Amsterdam Museum.


Blood Belt 1595

Amsterdams Historiach


In the bigger cities you had the Schout en zijn rakkers (bailiff and his rascals). The bailiff was a high-ranking police officer and the rascals were his helpers. The rascals can therefore be compared to the current police officers. The bailiff worked for the municipal council and was mainly concerned with tracking down people who had something up their sleeve. If he and the rascals caught a criminal, they would be taken to court and they would decide what punishment would be imposed.


The chiefs of the Handboogdoelen (detail)

Bartholomeus van der Helst 1653 [3]

The Kings sceptre

of the Guild of

St Sebastian 

Begining16th cent [4]


The man on the left is Jan van de Poll, who was a colonel of the bourgeoisie and became mayor in 1653. Van de Poll is sitting at the table and has turned to the viewer. He holds the old king's scepter in his hand and a Saint Sebastian, the patron saint of the Archery Guild, is depicted on the back of his chair. His companion (the bailiff) has the blood belt in his hands


Description of the picture With a large trophy in his hand, on the far left is Frans Banning Cocq, who had been overman of these shooting ranges at least since 1648 and who had been portrayed by Rembrandt in 1642 as captain of the Night Watch. Banning Cocq had been a colonel, but because he was elected mayor in 1650, he had to relinquish this position.

The same was true of Jan van de Poll, who was a colonel of the bourgeoisie at the same time as Banning Cocq and became mayor in 1653. Van de Poll is sitting at the table and has turned to the viewer. He holds the old king's scepter in his hand and a Saint Sebastian, the patron saint of the Archery Guild, is depicted on the back of his chair. Behind the table sits the brewer Albert Dircksz Pater, who holds the old chain of shooters with the parrot in his hands. Pater had been overman of the Handboogdoelen since 1648 and would succeed Van de Poll as colonel.

The printer Jan Willemsz Blaeu is depicted on the far right, addressing Banning Cocq with a speaking gesture. Blaeu had been overman since 1651 and the only one in this group who had not been or would become neither colonel nor mayor. Between Banning Cocq and Van de Poll, the goalkeeper carries in the drinking horn of the old archery guild. In the cupboard behind the officers are two silver tazzas, two lidded cups and a silver cup, and the competition spoons are hung on strings. By showing the old silver holdings of the militia, the officers would have wanted to emphasize their function as administrators and to remind of the significance of the old militia. That they were aware of this testifies to their task to "alle de schilderijen doen tyckenen in een boeck, met de namen der schutters, haer qualiteyt en waepens’ have all the paintings typed in a book, with the names of the archers, their ranks and arms" so that one would always know who was presented here. [5]


The Mayors Collar


The present mayor of Amsterdam wears a Collar of Office introduced by Royal Decision of 16 November 1852 reading:


De onderscheidingsteekenen, door den burgemeester te dragen, bestaan in een zilveren penning, hebbende eene middellijn van veertig strepen en vertoonende aan de eene zijde het wapen des Rijks, aan de andere dat der gemeente, of, zoo de gemeente geen wapen heeft, den naam der gemeente; de penning hangende op de borst, hetzij aan eene zilveren keten, hetzij aan een oranje zijden lint; de keten of het lint op beide schouders aan den rok of het opperkleed vastgehecht.


The insignia to be worn by the mayor consists of a silver medal, having a diameter of forty stripes and showing on one side the coat of arms of the Kingdom, on the other that of the municipality, or, if the municipality has no coat of arms, the name of the municipality, the medal hanging on the breast, either on a silver collar or on an orange silk ribbon; the collar or ribbon fastened on both shoulders to the skirt or the robe.


The decision was ratified  1 january 1853.


On the escutcheons are the symbols of a fish, a staff of Mercury, an ear of wheat and the shield of St Luke and on the other side the symbols of shipping, industry, science and a  goldsmith.




Dutch police history begins in 1581, with the formation of the Republic of the Seven United Netherlands. A simple police organization is created without clear tasks and powers. In 1810 Napoleon annexed our country to the French Empire and started to set up a police force. Cities can free up money for a bailiff; for municipalities this is a constable.


In 1813 the Netherlands regained its independence and a year later King William I founded the Corps de Marechaussée. That corps had twelve hundred employees and is part of the armed forces. It performs military tasks for the armed forces and non-military tasks for the national police. In 1858, in addition to the Marechaussee, the National Guard Corps (Korps Rijksveldwacht) was created with fourteen hundred employees. This force focuses on public order in the countryside. In addition to the two forces, there are also a municipal police (eleven thousand employees), police troops (sixteen hundred employees) and the municipal police force.

In the Second World War there was a "Reichskommissar für die Niederlände". The entire police force then numbers about twenty thousand people. After the war this service is dissolved. To restore and monitor public order, the government decided in November 1945 to establish a new police organization. A distinction is made between the municipal police (for designated municipalities) and the National Police Force for the rest of the country.

This division disappeared in 1994: after a major reorganization, the national and municipal police were merged into 25 regional police forces and the National Police Services Agency (KLPD). Each force works autonomously. This situation will last until 1 January 2013. From that day on, the police will form a single organization, subdivided into ten regional units, the National Unit and the Police Services Center. From now on, one police chief will direct the police.


Police Heraldry


The achievement of the police force of Amsterdam consists of the arms of Amsterdam with imperial crown and supported by two lions.


Police Headquarters. Oudezijds Achterburgwal 185


Spinhuis. As part of a new office building, the Spinhuis remains. a) the corner building on the O.Z. Achterburgwal, with a four-window facade under a sandstone frame with a pediment. Festoons; hipped roof. b) In a modern wall in the Spinhuissteeg a carved gate with relief by Hendrik de Keyser (1607).


Achievement of Amsterdam by Hildo Krop

Police headquarters, Marnixstraat


The motto reads:





the authority that protects rest in city and state /

watches restlessly against the trust of evil


In February 1939 the tender took place for the superstructure, which was to be completed a year later as police headquarters. Due to the German invasion of the Netherlands in 1940, construction was delayed, the building was almost ready in August 1941 and was therefore completed during the occupation period during the war. In September 1941, Commissioner Tulp could enter the new building

It has four floors with window strips in steel profiles and a lot of brick, divided into three wings. Originally, the floors next to stairs were accessible by paternoster lift, but later this had to make way for an ordinary lift for safety reasons.

Around a courtyard of 40 by 40 meters was a cell building, a garage for the motorcycle police, stables for the mounted police. There are also shooting ranges, a carpenter's workshop, heating room, weapons rooms, storage areas and air raid shelters. Although a large part of the facade extends along the Marnixstraat, the public entrance was at what was then the Verlengde Elandsgracht.


Police Services


Maintaining public order was done by the civic guard (schutterij). This consisted of armed civilians who could be summoned in the event of an insurrection and, if necessary, restore order by force.

In 1394 Amsterdam had a civic guard of 75 men. Two more were founded between 1413 and 1481. The three civic guards were named longbow archers, crossbow archers and arquebusiers (kloveniers) respectively after the weapons they used.

In September 1580 a reorganization took place: in addition to the three civic guard companies, eleven civilian barracks were set up, which, together with the civic guard companies, came under a single colonel-general. In the long run these two systems merged: in 1620 there were twenty civilian levies or companies, all belonging to one of three bases: longbow. arch-. or Arquebusiers hall

From 1650 a subdivision into regiments was introduced: an orange, a yellow, a blue, a white and a green regiment. There was also a purple regiment from 1672 to 1681. This division remained in principle until 1795.


Crossbow  Archers

Collar of the Guild of  St. George- or of the Guild of the crossbow archers  1510 - 1530

Amsterdams Historisch Museum inv.nr. KA 13963


Longbow archers


The arms of the Longbowmen’s Guild (1733)

Singel 421, Amsterdam

The arms are:

Quarterly: 1&4: Or, a bend Gules charged with three birds Argent, shot by a single arrow Sable; 2&3: Gules a square cross between four smaller crosses Or. (St. Sebastian)


The arms are between four smaller coats of arms of the chiefs of the longbowmen's shooting range.



Heraldic signboard of Frans Banninck Cocq, Lord of Purmerland and Ilpendam,

Artus Quellinus (I) Ascribed to), ca. 1655


On the sinister upper corner are the arms of Jan van de Poll,


and in the dexter the arms of Albert Dircksz Pater and  Jan Willemsz Blaeu


Arquebusiers / Kloveniers


Collar of the Amsterdam Arquebusiers guild, anonymous, ca. 1500 - ca. 1524

Gilded silver, l 80,0cm × d 40,0cm × d 2,5cm


Some links of this collar are decorated with claws, a symbol of the Amsterdam Arquebusiers guild. The winner of the shooting competition of the Arquebusiers - the archer king - got to wear the collar for a year. The names of two winners were attached to the collar in the 17th century.




A collection of banners of the civic guard was donated to the Rijksmuseum in 1888 but these were lost in the following hundred years because they were stored incompetently.


Civic Guard of Amsterdam, 1620

The ensign with a banner of the Arms of Amsterdam  [6]


Civic Guard of Amsterdam, 1623

The ensign with a banner of the achievement of Amsterdam  [7]


Civic Guard of Amsterdam, 1648

The ensign with a banner showing the Virgin of Amsterdam with coat of arms [8]


Banner of the Blue Regiment. 18th century

Coll Rijksmuseum Amsterdam [9]


Night Watch


Maintaining public order was also done by the night watch.. The real night watch was usually not dressed as beautifully as the men in the famous painting. Night watchmen had the arduous and thankless task of ensuring that civilians could sleep safely during the night hours. The intention was that they would patrol the streets to prevent the crooks' guild from breaking into the decent citizens. They did not have firearms, they usually carried a large stick and often a so-called clapper. This was a kind of wooden handle with a hammer attached to it. That stem was swung back and forth like a bell, creating a clattering sound. The night watchman walked through the streets and called out what time and whether everything was quiet. Another name for these men was therefore clapper.


Night watchman with sper and clapper




Badges and Headdress


Night watchman, 1840 ca

Spear, lantern and tall hat

Police officers, 1810 ca

Cocked hat, stick and  sabre


Police officer, 1844

Tall hat with badge, stick and sabre


Constable of Amsterdam 1900ca



Helmet  1898-1913


1917-1932 kepie


In the beginning of the 19th century the coat of arms of Amsterdam was on the headdress of the  officers of the municipal police. At the end of that century a copper emblem of the achievement was on the front of the police helmets. These helmets were abandoned in the beginnig of te 20th century because they were too hot and heavy and replaced by a cap ensigned of the arms of Amsterdam.

World War II

Chief of Police post-war -1964


Badge 1964-1994

Star 1964-1994


He watches that they may rest


Badge 1994


Korps Landelijke Politiediensten

National Police Services Agency


The Korps landelijke politiediensten (KLPD; (National Police Services Agency, lit. '"national police services corps"') was the national police force in the Netherlands from 1993 until 2013, responsible for specialist missions that benefited from a centralized approach.

The KLPD was independent from the regional police forces; but like them, it was subordinate to the Dutch Ministry of the Interior and had a staff of approximately 4,500. The KLPD operated both at national and international level from its HQ in Driebergen nearUtrecht. The agency also maintained the national most wanted list.

Since January 2013 there is a single Korps Nationale Politie (National Police Corps), divided in ten regional units and a central unit.



Waakzaam en Dienstbaar

watchful and obliging


present logo and motto



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 © Hubert de Vries 2021-04-03



[1] https://onh.nl/verhaal/wat-betekenen-de-drie-kruisen-van-amsterdam

[2] https://www.heraldry-wiki.com/heraldrywiki/wiki/Amsterdam

[3] https://bartholomeusvanderhelst.wordpress.com/meer/portret-overlieden-handboogdoelen-1653/

[4] Amsterdams Historisch Museum VI B 8-13960 Schutters in Holland. Waanders 1988. No 93

[5] https://bartholomeusvanderhelst.wordpress.com/meer/portret-overlieden-handboogdoelen-1653/

[6]  Schutters_van_de_compagnie_van_kapitein_Matthijs_Willemsz._Raephorst_en_luitenant_Hendrick_Lauwren. Amsterdam Museum

[7] Nicolaes Lastman en Adriaen van Nieulandt - Schutters van het vendel van kapitein Abraham Boom en luitenant Oetgens van Waveren, 1623 (Amsterdam Museum)

[8] Bartholomeus van der HelstSchuttersmaaltijd in de St-Jorisdoelen ter viering van de Vrede van Münster.. 1648

[9] Brandhof, Marijke van: Vlaggen, vaandels & standaarden van het Rijksmuseum te Amsterdam. Amsterdam, 1977

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