The Religious Centre of the Netherlands: Churches of Utrecht

Amsterdam is one of those bucket list places that just seems to get more hip every day. I was lucky enough to get visit this past March with Victor. This was not Victor’s first time visiting, so I had the benefit of having a semi-good tour guide. Me being the researcher I am, I ended up showing him everything he missed. Though I had Amsterdam pretty much covered, Victor insisted that I visit a neighbouring town he knew I would love: Utrecht. Utrecht is a 30 minute train ride from Amsterdam and is basically a mini Amsterdam, with perhaps more charm and friendliness. It also has a ridiculous amount of churches. Now, let me give you some context. Imagine yourself in the Middle Ages, Utrecht is the ecclesiastical centre of the Netherlands and its skyline is dominated by dozens of church towers. Today, the city has eight medieval churches. With a height of 112 metres. the Dom tower is the highest church tower in the Netherlands and the pride and eye-catcher of the “Dom-city’, which functions as a landmark throughout the city. Though a church would have accompanied it, the tower is now free-standing. Utrecht - Dom tower Next to the Dom tower is Domkerk, also known as St. Martin’s Cathedral. It was the cathedral of the Diocese of Utrecht during the Middle Ages. During the 16th century, the influence of the Reformation grew. The abuses of the Church caused a reaction from the people became strong and resulted in revolt during which statues and furniture in the churches were destroyed. Utrecht - Domkerk 2   Utrecht - Domkerk In 1566, iconoclasm impacted many of the parish churches in Utrecht. It was only in 1580 that the iconoclasts turned to the collegiate churches. The attack severely damaged the Cathedral. In an odd way, this church may be my favourite. It’s one thing to read about the iconoclasm in history textbooks, but an entirely new world opens when you see the actual history playing out in front of you. However, much of the church remains and so you can stand in the only pre-reformation church in the Netherlands. The church itself is beautiful, but the Cloister is absolutely stunning (though I’m not sure there is such a thing as an ugly cloister). Utrecht - Cloister Utrecht - Cloister 2Janskerk, our next stop, is another beautiful church in central Utrecht. Dedicated to John the Baptist, this Romanesque basilica served as a church for the chapter of St John. Bishop Bernold of Utrecht founded the Janskerk shortly after 1040. In the Middle Ages, it was one of the city’s five collegiate churches. Together, they formed a cluster in the shape of a cross, known as the Utrecht church cross; the others were the Dom, St Salvator’s Church/Salvatorkerk, St Peter’s Church/Pieterskerk and St Mary’s Church/Mariakerk. Utrecht - Janskerk 2 Utrecht - Janskerk Our final church stop provided to be somewhat unusual in its style. St. Willibrordkerk is a Roman Catholic church in honor of Saint Willibrord. Constructed between 1875 and 1877, Alfred Tepe designed it in gothic revival style. Of course, the colours are a tad unique and the intricacy is unusual. I have never seen anything like it, so it was a real treat to see something like this. It also makes for a great photography session! What’s so cool about this church is the sober exterior of the church contrasts with the elaborate and colourful interior. Utrecht - St. Willibrordkerk 2 Utrecht - St. Willibrordkerk 3 Utrecht - St. Willibrordkerk I’m going to be a little cheeky and include another ‘church’ in this post. For dinner, Victor and I went to Café Olivier to enjoy some Belgian beer and food. The pub lives inside an old church! Previously known as Saint Mary Minor Church, I think it is safe to say the church is no longer in use. Pretty neat though, am I right? Utrecht - Café Olivier

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