Schiermonnikoog is an island
An island or isle is any piece of sub-continental land that is surrounded by water. Very small islands such as emergent land features on atolls can be called islets, cays or keys. An island in a river or lake may be called an eyot , or holm...

, a municipality
A municipality is essentially an urban administrative division having corporate status and usually powers of self-government. It can also be used to mean the governing body of a municipality. A municipality is a general-purpose administrative subdivision, as opposed to a special-purpose district...

, and a national park
National park
A national park is a reserve of natural, semi-natural, or developed land that a sovereign state declares or owns. Although individual nations designate their own national parks differently A national park is a reserve of natural, semi-natural, or developed land that a sovereign state declares or...

 in the northern Netherlands
The Netherlands is a constituent country of the Kingdom of the Netherlands, located mainly in North-West Europe and with several islands in the Caribbean. Mainland Netherlands borders the North Sea to the north and west, Belgium to the south, and Germany to the east, and shares maritime borders...

. Schiermonnikoog is one of the West Frisian Islands
West Frisian Islands
The West Frisian Islands are a chain of islands in the North Sea off the Dutch coast, along the edge of the Wadden Sea. They continue further east as the German East Frisian Islands and are part of the Frisian Islands....

, and is part of the province of Friesland
Friesland is a province in the north of the Netherlands and part of the ancient region of Frisia.Until the end of 1996, the province bore Friesland as its official name. In 1997 this Dutch name lost its official status to the Frisian Fryslân...


The island is only 16 km long and 4 km wide and is the site of the Netherlands' first national park. The only village on the island is also called Schiermonnikoog. Just under 1,000 people permanently reside on the island, making the municipality the least densely populated
Population density
Population density is a measurement of population per unit area or unit volume. It is frequently applied to living organisms, and particularly to humans...

 in the Netherlands. Because the island is small and flat, only 200 islanders have taken out the special licence allowing them to keep their own car, with the result that the few streets are virtually car-free.

Up to 300,000 people visit the island every year, staying in the 5,500 beds available in holiday homes, apartments and hotels. Most visitors, however, are day trippers (about 4,000/day in July and August alone), with the result that after the last ferry leaves at 6.30pm, calm returns to Langestreek, the village high street.


The first known owners of Schiermonnikoog were the monk
A monk is a person who practices religious asceticism, living either alone or with any number of monks, while always maintaining some degree of physical separation from those not sharing the same purpose...

s of Klaarkamp Abbey
Klaarkamp Abbey
Klaarkamp Abbey was a Cistercian monastery in the community of Dongeradeel, about 4 kilometres southwest of Dokkum and 2 kilometres north of Rinsumageest in the Dutch province of Friesland.-History:...

, a Cistercian monastery
Monastery denotes the building, or complex of buildings, that houses a room reserved for prayer as well as the domestic quarters and workplace of monastics, whether monks or nuns, and whether living in community or alone .Monasteries may vary greatly in size – a small dwelling accommodating only...

 near Rinsumageest
Dantumadiel is a municipality in the province of Friesland in the Netherlands. Dantumadiel is a rural municipality characterized by agriculture.- History :...

, on the mainland. "Monnik" means "monk" and "schier" is an archaic word meaning "grey
Grey or gray is an achromatic or neutral color.Complementary colors are defined to mix to grey, either additively or subtractively, and many color models place complements opposite each other in a color wheel. To produce grey in RGB displays, the R, G, and B primary light sources are combined in...

", referring to the colour of the monks' habits. "oog" translates as "island". The name Schiermonnikoog therefore translates as island of the grey monks.

The tidal current, prevailing wind and the sea cause the island to slowly "move" to the south and the east. In the year 1250, it lay roughly 2 km to the north of its present position, and it had a significantly different shape.

The oldest mention of Schiermonnikoog in writing dates from October 1440, in a document written by Philip the Good.

During the Reformation, the monasteries in the northern Netherlands were expropriated. In 1580, Schiermonnikoog became the property of the States of Friesland
Frisia is a coastal region along the southeastern corner of the North Sea, i.e. the German Bight. Frisia is the traditional homeland of the Frisians, a Germanic people who speak Frisian, a language group closely related to the English language...

. Around 1640, the States sold the island to the wealthy Stachouwer family. For the next three centuries, Schiermonnikoog remained private property.

Around 1700, the population of Schiermonnikoog was divided among four villages or communities. The largest village was Westerburen, which had developed in the vicinity of the monks' buildings. In 1717 and 1720, storm
A storm is any disturbed state of an astronomical body's atmosphere, especially affecting its surface, and strongly implying severe weather...

s flood
A flood is an overflow of an expanse of water that submerges land. The EU Floods directive defines a flood as a temporary covering by water of land not normally covered by water...

ed Westerburen, which had to be abandoned around 1725, prey to drifting sand and the advancing sea. In 1756 a new town, named Oosterburen, was built to the east. Nowadays this second village is named Schiermonnikoog, after the island. At about this time the residents revolted against Lady Catharina Maria Stachouwer, which forced the States of Friesland to send troops to protect her and restore law and order.

In August of 1799, a small Royal Navy
Royal Navy
The Royal Navy is the naval warfare service branch of the British Armed Forces. Founded in the 16th century, it is the oldest service branch and is known as the Senior Service...

 squadron under Captain Adam Mackenzie
Adam Mackenzie
Adam Mackenzie was an officer of the Royal Navy. He was promoted to Lieutenant on 13 March 1790, to Commander on 22 June 1796, and to Captain on 2 September 1799. He died on 13 November 1823.-HMS Pylades:...

 of HMS Pylades, attacked and captured the ex-British gun-brig Crash
HMS Crash (1797)
HMS Crash was a 12-gun . She was launched in April 1797 as GB No. 15 and received the name Crash in August. She served against the French and Dutch in the Napoleonic Wars, though after her capture in 1798 she spent a year in the service of the Batavian republic before the British recaptured her...

, moored between Schiermonnikoog and Groningen
Groningen (province)
Groningen [] is the northeasternmost province of the Netherlands. In the east it borders the German state of Niedersachsen , in the south Drenthe, in the west Friesland and in the north the Wadden Sea...

. The boats of the squadron then attacked a six gun Dutch schooner Vengeance and a battery on Schiermonnikoog. The British were able to burn the schooner and spike the guns of the battery.This exploit would earn those seamen who survived until 1847 the Naval General Service Medal with clasp "SCHIERMONNIKOOG 12 AUGT. 1799".

In 1859, the Stachouwer family sold the island to John Eric Banck from The Hague
The Hague
The Hague is the capital city of the province of South Holland in the Netherlands. With a population of 500,000 inhabitants , it is the third largest city of the Netherlands, after Amsterdam and Rotterdam...

. Amongst other works he started planting the sand dunes with marram grass to stabilize them. There is now a monument to him on the top of the dike that he built. In 1878 he sold the island to the German count, Hartwig Arthur van Bernstorff-Wehningen. When the count died in 1940, his son Bechtold Eugen Graf von Bernstorff inherited Schiermonnikoog. When World War II
World War II
World War II, or the Second World War , was a global conflict lasting from 1939 to 1945, involving most of the world's nations—including all of the great powers—eventually forming two opposing military alliances: the Allies and the Axis...

 broke out and the German military occupied the island, he ensured that the islanders were largely left in peace. When von Bernstorff died in 1987, his family was allowed to bury him beside the Reformed Church in the village.

In 1940, KLM briefly initiated passenger and postal service to Schiermonnikoog and nearby Ameland
Ameland is a municipality and one of the West Frisian Islands off the north coast of the Netherlands. It consists mostly of sand dunes. It is the third major island of the West Frisians. It neighbours islands Terschelling to the West and Schiermonnikoog to the East...

, landing its Douglas DC-3
Douglas DC-3
The Douglas DC-3 is an American fixed-wing propeller-driven aircraft whose speed and range revolutionized air transport in the 1930s and 1940s. Its lasting impact on the airline industry and World War II makes it one of the most significant transport aircraft ever made...

s on the beach.

During World War II
World War II
World War II, or the Second World War , was a global conflict lasting from 1939 to 1945, involving most of the world's nations—including all of the great powers—eventually forming two opposing military alliances: the Allies and the Axis...

, the German Army heavily fortified the island as part of the Atlantic Wall
Atlantic Wall
The Atlantic Wall was an extensive system of coastal fortifications built by Nazi Germany between 1942 and 1944 along the western coast of Europe as a defense against an anticipated Allied invasion of the mainland continent from Great Britain.-History:On March 23, 1942 Führer Directive Number 40...

 defence line. The number of German troops came to equal the island’s own population of 600. Towards the end of the war, hundreds of SS
The Schutzstaffel |Sig runes]]) was a major paramilitary organization under Adolf Hitler and the Nazi Party. Built upon the Nazi ideology, the SS under Heinrich Himmler's command was responsible for many of the crimes against humanity during World War II...

 troops along with members of the SD
Sicherheitsdienst , full title Sicherheitsdienst des Reichsführers-SS, or SD, was the intelligence agency of the SS and the Nazi Party in Nazi Germany. The organization was the first Nazi Party intelligence organization to be established and was often considered a "sister organization" with the...

 fled to the island, reinforcing the German contingent already there. After the war ended, the Germans on the island had not yet surrendered, and the Canadian forces, which were responsible for the sector, did not want to have to fight to force a surrender. Fortunately, the German commander agreed to surrender and the German soldiers were evacuated to Wilhelmshaven
Wilhelmshaven is a coastal town in Lower Saxony, Germany. It is situated on the western side of the Jade Bight, a bay of the North Sea.-History:...

 in Germany. On June 11, 1945, the island became the last part of Europe freed by the Allies
Allies of World War II
The Allies of World War II were the countries that opposed the Axis powers during the Second World War . Former Axis states contributing to the Allied victory are not considered Allied states...


After World War II, the Dutch government confiscated Schiermonnikoog as 'enemy property'. Schiermonnikoog became an independent municipality in 1949, as part of the Province of Friesland.

On 1 January 2006 the eastern border of the island was moved eastbound, further into the now former territory of the municipality of Eemsmond
Eemsmond is a municipality in the northeastern Netherlands.- Population centers :Eemshaven, Eppenhuizen, Kantens, Oldenzijl, Oosteinde, Oosternieland, Oudeschip, Roodeschool, Rottum, Startenhuizen, Stitswerd, Uithuizen, Uithuizermeeden, Usquert, Warffum, Zandeweer.It also includes the uninhabited...

 in the province of Groningen
Groningen (province)
Groningen [] is the northeasternmost province of the Netherlands. In the east it borders the German state of Niedersachsen , in the south Drenthe, in the west Friesland and in the north the Wadden Sea...

, for a compensation of about 30.000 euros. This was done to give the municipality of Schiermonnikoog the possibility to act in case of a calamity or disaster.


The main source of income on Schiermonnikoog is tourism. The island houses a campground, a ferry pier, a tidal harbour for small vessels and approximately 15 hotels and hundreds of vacation houses and apartments. The eastern part of the island forms an important nature reserve, with access very restricted during the breeding season of the many birds that nest there. The island as a whole is one of The Netherlands' national parks, Schiermonnikoog National Park


The only public transport to Schiermonnikoog is a ferry from the lock and harbour complex of Lauwersoog. Even during the winter months there are more than two connections per day.

Tourists are not allowed to bring their cars with them on the ferry. Buses connect the village with the ferry. The most common form of transport is by bicycle; a network of cycle paths criss-crosses the island.

External links

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