History of Renesse
The first known mention of the village, then called Riethnesse, dates to 1244. The lords of Renesse were once an influential family in Zeeland. Moermond Castle, most famously inhabited by Flemish patriot Jan van Renesse, was built in the 13th century.
The inhabitants of Renesse were once mockingly known as ‘billy goats’. Almost everyone kept one or more goats, ‘the poor man’s cow’. In earlier times, the entire west coast of Schouwen was a poor region.
Renesse is a circular village built around the gothic Jacobuskerk church. The church tower dates to 1458. An annual funfair is held around the church, always around 25 July, the name day of Saint James (also known as Jacob).
The 13th-century Moermond Castle stands in the middle of the Moermond Estate, a 45-hectare protected nature reserve. The estate was founded around 1229 by Constatijn van Zierikzee, and its most famous residents were Jan van Renesse and Witte de Haamstede. Twice the castle has been ravaged by battles and rebuilt. The castle is not generally open to the public, but is used for banquets and events.
From the beginning of the 20th century, Renesse developed into a true seaside resort. Its location, close to dunes and the beach, led it to quickly grow popular. The first summer homes were built along the beach, and famous people like the artist Anton Pieck visited the resort. Entrepreneurs seized the opportunity and built a beachside shop where visitors could rent swimwear and such. The first campsites were opened on the Hogezoom in the early 1920s.
After the North Sea flood disaster of 1953 came the Delta Works and tourism quickly expanded. Many orchards and farms were transformed into campsites, and bungalow parks were built near Renesse.
Renesse’s sandy beach is about 17 kilometres long and lies next to the forests of Westerschouwen. The beaches near Renesse have won several awards for their cleanliness. They are divided into family beaches, water sports beaches and natural preserves.
There is free parking (900 places) available at the Transferium, on the outskirts of Renesse. From there you can take a free bus to the beach, village or campsite between 15 May and 15 September.
The village has a special bond with seals. Off the coast of Renesse, you can regularly see them lying on the sandbanks. The number of seals in Zeeland waters has greatly increased in recent times, as has the number of sick or wounded seals. Perhaps a mother does not care for her young or flees from danger alone, leaving them unprotected. Thus, young criers are regularly found. All distressed seals are taken to a seal rehabilitation centre in Pieterburen in the north of the country, or to the nearby A Seal Foundation in Stellendam. Once they have recovered their strength, the seals are returned to the beach at Renesse and released. There is often a crowd of onlookers watching that special moment when the seals get their freedom again.
The Fjoertoer walking tour in and around Renesse is a notable annual event. This evening walk along the beach and through the forests is illuminated by various light sources that create a wonderful atmosphere.
The annual Straô is another special event, which only takes place in villages along the west coast of Schouwen. A colourful procession of decorated horses tramps through the village to the beach, where their hooves are washed in the sea. The Straô tradition (derived from ‘strand’ – beach) grew when people took their horses to the sea to wash off the hooves and clean their wounds after a winter indoors. It was also believed that the sea water would drive out evil spirits.
Many events take place in Renesse, especially during the summer season. Check out our event calendar to learn what’s happening now.