Established as a small outpost by the Romans, Nijmegen was defined by the Valkhof, a large stronghold that Charlemagne built in the 8th century on a bluff overlooking the river Waal. The citadel was rebuilt by Emperor Frederick Barbarossa in the 12th century after a fire, but following a period of neglect most of the fortress was dismantled in 1796; only a chapel from the 11th century and ruins of a second chapel remain.

Salomon van Ruysdael (Dutch, 1600/1603–1670), The Valkhof at Nijmegen, 1652
oil on panel, 69.9 x 92.1 cm (27 1/2 x 36 1/4 in.), The Ivor Collection
Contemporary photograph courtesy Royal Picture Gallery Mauritshuis, The Hague