I tried finding out why the houses are white-washed but all I could find was a random mention of avoiding taxes or covering poverty scars. I don't know if either of those has any merit and I couldn't find anything else.
First, the region of Thorn was a swamp nearby the Roman road between Maastricht and Nijmegen. But the region had been drained and about 975, Bishop Ansfried of Utrecht founded an abbey for female Benedictines. This monastery developed since the 12th century into a secular stift or convent. The principal of the stift was the abbess. She was assisted by a chapter of at most twenty ladies of the highest nobility.
Previously the abbess and the chapter were endowed with religious tasks but, since the 12th century, they served secular matters and formed the government of a truly sovereign miniature principality, the smallest independent state in the German Holy Roman Empire. Besides Thorn, Ittervoort, Grathem, Baexem, Stramproy, Ell, Haler and Molenbeersel belonged to this principality. After the French invasion in the winter of 1794–95 and the formal abolition in 1797 made an end to the existence of the abbey and the principality of Thorn; Thorn was first part of the department of Meuse-Inférieure, and after the Vienna Congress it became a municipality of the United Kingdom of the Netherlands.
27 March 2011
Thorn - The White Village
A few weeks ago I took a trip to the village of Thorn. It is known as The White Village because of the white-washed brick houses. Per wikipedia:
See the three cannonballs between the 2nd floor windows? They were built into the house. The story is that they were built in so that the house would withstand any cannon attack.