Amsterdam: Kloverniersburgwal – what the name means

Amsterdam, Netherlands

Merely knowing what the name of a street or canal means can add to your understanding and enjoyment of Amsterdam.

The Kloveniersburgwal canal runs from Nieuwmarkt, at the edge of Amsterdam’s Red Light District to the Amstel river (a dam in which gave Amsterdam – dam in the Amstel – its name).

If you were to ask, many Amsterdam locals would not know what the name ‘kloveniersburgwal’ actually stands for.

Well, they’d get the latter part: burg = fortress, and wal = wall. Indeed, at some point this canal was a moat outside the Eastern wall around the city of Amsterdam.

The term Kloveniers is derived from klover, an arquebus, which was the sixteenth-century forerunner of the musket. The French term arquebus (remember, the French ruled Holland for a while…) actually was derived from the Dutch word for hook gun.

The Kloveniers were a group of militiamen, and were also called Arquebusiers.

Though they lived centuries ago, it is more than likely that you have seen some of them, as they are depicted in The Nightwatch, Rembrandt’s most famous painting — which was completed in 1642, at the peak of the Netherlands’ golden age.

Rembrandt’s painting was commissioned to be hung in the banquet hall of the then newly built Kloveniersdoelen (Musketeers’ Meeting Hall), just to the south of the spot where this photo was taken.

It was later moved to the Rijksmuseum, also in Amsterdam.