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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Details

Founded: 1023/1254
Category: Religious sites in Netherlands

Rating

4.5/5 (based on Google user reviews)

User Reviews

MTA Held (2 years ago)
Beautiful gothic church that is a very solid part of Utrecht's history. Interesting fact; this church is part of the reason why Utrechtenaar is an insult (pseudonym for gay) and Utrechter should be used. As history goes, the nave of this church was destroyed by a whirlwind in 1674, which is still expo'd inside. Rumour was that the ruins became a nightly meeting spot for the queer untill the sexton instigated an investigation in 1730. This lead to the conviction and strangulation of eighteen suspects after which a nationwide witch-hunt started for other "sodomites". Ofcourse, the whole thing was widely reported by newspapers, linking the word Utrechtenaar to homosexuality forever, which annoyed the head of the local newspaper. And so, he started using the word Utrechter, an example which others followed. A black monumantal plaque was placed at Domplein by 1999 to commemorate these events.
Jasper Broekhuis (2 years ago)
Absolutely stunning! I’ve watched a concert during Le Guess Who and what an amazing place with a marvellous acoustic. Inside the church it is really nice!
Renee Van Uijen Pool (2 years ago)
Beautiful church and famous landmark in the city of Utrecht. It is known as the Dom church and Dom tower and is oozing history. Take a look in the little garden through the doors on the right side of the church when you have visited the church.
Sheila H (2 years ago)
A must visit in Utrecht, walkable from the Central Station. The church and surrounding area is steeped in history, and is open to the public. Make sure to also visit the adjacent courtyard, the Dom Tower (which you can climb) and DOM under (an archeological museum).
Yolanda Santiago (2 years ago)
This Utrecht Cathedral is one of the most important Gothic monument in The Netherlands. And with an impressive history. We came here after we have climbed the Dom Tower which also belongs to this Cathedral, but was separated from each other in 1674 due to a massive storm. A beautiful place one must visit when in Utrecht.
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