St. Martin's Cathedral or Dom Church was the cathedral of the bishopric of Utrecht during the Middle Ages. The first chapel dedicated to Saint Martin in Utrecht was founded around 630 by Frankish clergy under the patronage of the Merovingian kings but was destroyed during an attack of the Frisians on Utrecht shortly thereafter. The site of this first chapel within Utrecht is unknown. Saint Willibrord (died 739), the Apostle to the Frisians, established a second chapel devoted to Saint Martin on (or close to) the site of the current Dom. This church was destroyed by the Normans in the 9th century during one of their many raids on Utrecht, but was reconstructed by Bishop Balderik in the 10th century.
The church was repeatedly destroyed by fires and then rebuilt. A church in Romanesque style was built by Adalbold, Bishop of Utrecht, and consecrated in 1023. It is thought to have been the center of a cross-shaped conglomeration of 5 churches, called a Kerkenkruis, built to commemorate Conrad II. This building, also known as Adalbold's Dom, was partially destroyed in the big fire of 1253 which ravaged much of Utrecht, leading Bishop Hendrik van Vianen to initiate the construction of the current Gothic structure in 1254. The construction of the Gothic Dom was to continue well into the 16th century. The first part to be built was the choir. The Dom Tower was started in 1321 and finished in 1382. After 1515, steadily diminishing financing prevented completion of this building project, of which an almost complete series of building accounts exists. In 1566, the Beeldenstorm or Iconoclast Fury swept across much of the Low Countries, justified by the Calvinist belief that statues in a house of God were idolatrous images which must be destroyed. As a result, many of the ornaments on both the exterior and interior of the Dom were destroyed.
In 1580 the city government of Utrecht handed the Dom over to the Calvinists in the city. From then on Protestant services were held in the Dom with one brief exception during the French invasion of the Netherlands in 1672-1673, when Catholic masses were again held in the old cathedral. A year after the French retreat, the still unfinished and insufficiently supported nave collapsed on 1 August 1674 during a massive regional storm that caused a tornado to develop in Utrecht. Over the subsequent centuries, much of the enormous building fell into further neglect. The pitiable state of the Dom led to some small restoration activities in the nineteenth century, followed by major renovations in the early twentieth century with the aim of returning the Cathedral to its original state. However, the nave was never rebuilt.
When in 1853 the Roman Catholic Church re-established its episcopal hierarchy in the Netherlands, the former St. Catherine's church of the Carmelites was turned into the new Catholic cathedral of Utrecht.
What remains of St. Martin's today are the choir, the transept and the Dom Tower. The central nave of the cathedral which collapsed in the storm of 1674 is now a square with large trees, the Domplein. Stones in various colours indicate in the pavement the original outlines of the church. A cloister and a chapter house, which is now the main hall of Utrecht University, are also still standing.
The only medieval tomb of importance to remain relatively unscathed in the Dom is that of Bishop Guy of Avesnes (also known as Gwijde van Henegouwen), the brother of John II, Count of Holland and Hainaut, who was bishop from 1301 until his death in 1317. There are many other beautifully carved burial slabs and memorials in the cathedral. Of particular note is the monumental cenotaph, which contained the heart of Bishop Joris of Egmond (died 1559).
Soave castle was built in 934 to protect the area against the Hungarian invasions. It was remodelled by Cansignorio of the Scaliger family in the mid-1300s. in 1365 Cansignorio had the town walls erected and the Town hall was built in the same year.
The castle underwent various vicissitudes until, having lost its strategic importance, it was sold on the private market in 1596. In 1830 it was inherited by Giulio Camuzzoni who restored the manor and in particular the surroundings walls (with is twenty-four towers), the battlements and living-quarters.
Soave castle is a typical medieval military edifice, commanding the neighbourhood of the city from the Tenda Hill. It comprises a mastio (donjon) and three lines of walls forming three courts of different size. The outer line, with a gate and a draw bridge, is the most recent, built by the Venetians in the 15th century. It houses the remains of a small church from the 10th century.
The second and larger court, the first of the original castle, is called della Madonna for a fresco portraying St. Mary (1321). Another fresco is visible after the door leading to the inner court, and portrays a Scaliger soldier. The mastio is the most impressive feature of the castle. Bones found within showed it was used also as prison and place of torture.
The House called del Capitano (the Scaliger commander) houses Roman coins, weapons parts, medals and other ancient remains found during the most recent restoration. Adjacent is a bedroom with a 13th-century fresco with St. Mary and Madeleine and a dining room with medieval kitchenware. Another room houses the portraits of the most famous Scaliger figures: Mastino I, Cangrande, Cansignorio and Taddea da Carrara, wife of Mastino II; the portrait of Dante Alighieri testify an alleged sojourn of the poet in the castle.