St. Martin's Cathedral

Utrecht, Netherlands

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).


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Founded: 1023/1254
Category: Religious sites in Netherlands


4.5/5 (based on Google user reviews)

User Reviews

CCG G (8 months ago)
Highly recommend buying the audio guide for 2 euro. Lots of cool historical relics from the medieval ages to the reformation.
Sam Aberman (8 months ago)
St. Martin's Cathedral (Domkerk) in Utrecht is a must-visit for anyone interested in history, architecture, and peaceful ambiance. The church is impressive in its size and simplicity, with towering columns, soaring arches, and stunning stained-glass windows that filter in soft, colorful light. Despite its turbulent past, the church has been beautifully preserved and is still in use today, with a free choir performance every Saturday. The church's minimalism belies its beauty, with intricately carved wooden pews and delicate stone carvings that have been carefully preserved and restored. The stained-glass windows depict scenes from the Bible and are stunning in their detail and beauty. The sense of history that permeates the church is palpable, and visitors can almost feel the weight of the centuries that have passed, the countless prayers that have been said, and the many lives that have been touched by this place. Visitors can enjoy a peaceful and refreshing experience, whether they're history buffs, architecture enthusiasts, or simply looking for a place to reflect and recharge. The church is a testament to the power of faith, art, and architecture, and a reminder of the beauty and tranquility that can be found in the simplest of things.
Dan L (12 months ago)
The outside tower is being renovated. The inside is quite bare but free to enter and has a pay toilet with drinking water. The attendants were polite and there is a digital donation pinpad. The story of the storm is interesting as well. Nice shady space to sit outside.
Johnny D (13 months ago)
We visited twice. The 1st time we stumbled upon a concert about to begin and were able to join. Just a stunning experience in this beautiful cathedral!
Veronika Brown (13 months ago)
The most impressive church I’ve ever visited. They don’t push you and “scare” you with religion. There is a coffee place, changing table for babies, concert hall, piano. Really different and modern concept of Christianity in 21 century?
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