The old seal of Amsterdam

History and legend

Seal on top of royal palace

Sometimes you can still see the old Amsterdam seal on the facades or high above the roofs as a wind vane. You can recognize it by a ship with two figures and a dog on it. The ship is a cog ship, to which Amsterdam owes much of its prosperity. In the Middle Ages, the inhabitants of Amsterdam traded with these ships, mainly with Eastern Europe. The left man depicts the count’s authority and the right man the inhabitants of Amsterdam. The dog represents loyalty.

There is also a nice story made up around this stamp. This story tells us that the left man is bishop Coenraad from Utrecht. He was appointed as feudal lord of Friesland, but the Frisians were a rough people who did not recognize that authority. He wanted to get the Frisians under it and went over the Zuiderzee (now the IJsselmeer) towards Stavoren. His ship was wrecked by a storm, but he managed to land in Stavoren. After initially helping him, the Frisians saw from his signet ring that it was the new ruler. The Frisians did not like that. They threw him on an old and derelict cog ship and pushed it back out to sea. A young Frisian didn’t agree with it and jumped on board at the last minute, his dog jumped after him. With great effort they kept the ship afloat and let themselves be carried by the current. Eventually they landed at the mouth of a river, the Amstel. The young man, Wolfger, realized that he could not go back and decided to stay and build a new life there. The bishop, of course, was happy with his savior and loaned him the plot of land and predicted that this place would grow into a thriving city.

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