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Start: Domplein (1915/1922)
During this walk we will take you back in time. Here on Domplein square, the starting point of our journey, you are standing on the remains of a Roman fortress that developed into the most important trading post in The Netherlands. The Dom was built as a cathedral and it has the tallest church spire in The Netherlands, a spectacular 112,32 meters. The nave (the central part of the church) collapsed during a tornado in the 17th century. That is why the Dom tower now stands separated from the main body of the church.
Onder de Dom (1910/1920)
For centuries the Domplein square was covered in heaps of rubble caused by the collapse of the church nave. The ruins were an ideal meeting place for homosexuals. In the 18th century homosexuality was subject to severe punishment and during the infamous Utrecht homosexual affair 18 gay ‘suspects’ were convicted and strangled to death. In the centre of the square you will find a memorial tile dedicated to the victims. The square is covered with original gravestones. Although the graves have been cleared during reconstruction of the square, the gravestones were left in place in memory of the deceased.
This is the oldest bridge of the Oude-gracht, the city’s main canal. In 1122, it was the only link between the episcopal quarter and the trade quarter. The building of a dam at Wijk bij Duurstede caused the water level in Utrecht to drop, threatening the city with bank-ruptcy. Utrecht’s merchants had to dig a new waterway to save the city. However, the bishop, leader of the city, refused to pay for its construction. Coincidentally, members of Holy Roman Emperor Henry V’s court got into an argument with the bishop’s servants, which turned out to be a blessing. The emperor had the bishop imprisoned, he approved the merchants’ proposal and granted Utrecht city privileges.
Orakel van Utrecht (1920/1930)
Beneath number 25 the Oracle of Utrecht might be buried. Sister Bertken, daughter of a devoted clerical leader who was supposed to be strictly celi-bate, should never have been born. When her father died she had a cell built of 3.5 by 4 meters, which she paid for with her own money. One window had a view of the street, the other provided a view of the altar. She had herself locked in, and for 57 years gave counsel to many women and girls. Her remains were never found, although her grave probably lies beneath number 25.
The shortest alley in Utrecht was named after an old saying. People used to say that the alley was as short as ‘a rooster’s stride’ (‘de schrede van één haan’). Hence the name ‘Hanengeschrei’ (rooster’s stride). Other sources claim the alley owes its name to the tavern called ‘Hanengeschrei’ that stood on the left hand corner. But whatever the claims might be, this alley certainly is the shortest alley in the whole of Utrecht!
Stadhuis (1910 / 1924)
The Stadhuis (City Hall) has a rich history. The death sentences on the homosexuals were carried out in the old cellars and a fierce battle for the episcopal elections took place here. Following the bishop’s death in 1423, there were two important succession candidates: Rudolf and Zweder. Rudolf was elected, but after Zweder’s followers told the pope that Rudolf was illiterate, he intervened and put Zweder on the throne. But then Zweder’s followers killed the mayor, who was a supporter of Rudolf. Zweder did not publicly disapprove of this action and lost so much credit that he was deposed. Rudolf was once more elected as bishop.
Winkel van Sinkel (1834)
De Winkel van Sinkel, which used to be a department store but is now a café and nightclub, is responsible for the fact that the city crane no longer stands here. The four cast iron sculptures supporting the building’s façade were imported from England in 1839. While lifting one of the sculptures, the top part of the crane broke off and fell into the Oudegracht canal. The crane was so heavily damaged that it was removed altogether. Down by the canal, near the tree, the octagonal base is still visible in the pavement. The bas-relief on the wall shows you what the crane used to look like.
This is a ‘wed’, a street that slopes down to the edge of the canal to facilitate cargo transport from ships. Boat-men would anchor at this particular spot and push their large, fully loaded carts back up to street level. It wasn’t until the construction of the dam at Wijk bij Duurstede that the water level dropped this low. All these quays, werfkelders (basements beneath the streets, accessible from the quay) and this wed were then dug by hand and they now form a unique feature of the old city of Utrecht.
Ganzenmarkt (1890 / 1910)
This square used to be the domain of the poultry farmers. Its name ‘Ganzen-markt’ (Geese Market) is very appropriate. Being so close to the wed it was the ideal place to directly sell the trade goods from the ships. There was a plan to put a statue of a chubby woman with two chickens under her arms on this spot. However, a suitable place wasn’t found and the statue was erected near the Hanengeschrei instead. Because the chubby woman looks a lot like former mayor Vonhoff, the statue is nicknamed Mrs. Vonhoff.
Minrebroederklooster (1890 / 1904)
The Minrebroederklooster (Fransiscan Monastery) that used to stand here gave its name to this street. When Utrecht converted to Calvinism, all
monasteries and churches were forced to close. But people still wanted to attend church, so services were held in secret. To avoid arrests the services were held at different times and on different locations. How did people know when and where to go? This was taken care of by the ‘klopjes’: women who weren’t nuns, but who wanted to do something extra for the church. Just before service they would come knocking on the doors of those who wanted to attend. Nowadays, the monastery is part of Utrecht University.
Viel en van Dijk (1974)
For at least 80 years, the Viel en van Dijk pharmacy was located in this building. It was extremely well known in Utrecht and many locals were customer here. As you can see, the small sphere at the top of the tower has disappeared. This happened during a violent storm. Not many years later the building was almost destroyed. In the adjacent building on the left explosive materials were stored. A short circuit caused the entire building to explode. It exploded with such force that it shattered all the pharmacy’s windows.
It may not be obvious, but the building that you are looking at used to be a carriage house. It belonged to Janskerkhof number 12, which lies all the way on the other side of the block. It was built by the wealthy Van Voorst family. The building’s construction and ornamentation indicate the family’s wealth. It used to be at least twice as long as its current width.
Metalen huis (1932)
This tiny, flashy building stands on the smallest land lot of Utrecht. The house measures 3 by 5 meters, making it the smallest lot in Utrecht. It’s a monument and has been designed by Sluijmer en Van Leeuwen architects. The architects have dealt with the limited space in a very inventive way. For example, the original vaulted base-ment has been converted into a living room. When you look over the bridge, across from the side of the house (not the front door), you can see directly inside. The plot measures only 15 square meters, but the architect has managed to create 117 square meters of floor space.
This house was built by the eccentric young lord and poet Everard Meyster from the nearby city of Amersfoort. In 1661, he made a bet with Amersfoort’s citizens: if they were able to transport a large boulder from the Leusderheide heath into the city he would buy them all beer and pretzels. And so it happened. Meyster incorporated several references to the event into the house. Above the entrance of the carriage house, which no longer exists, he placed a large boulder to which the Keistraat (Boulder Street) owes its name. The house itself was called De Krakeling (The Pretzel). Even the doorbell, which can still be seen, was forged into the shape of a pretzel.
Pieterskerk (1920 / 1924)
The Pieterskerk (St Peter’s church) is to your right. In 1039, german Emperor Conrad II died while visiting Utrecht. His son had his father’s heart and intestins buried in the Dom Church and he donated land and money to the bishop, who used the money to build the Pieterskerk. Word has it that the Utrecht church cross, a group of churches forming the shape of a cross when viewed on a map of the city, was built around the heart of the emperor. However, evidence to this claim has never been found.
Geestelijke enclave (1905 / 1915)
The Pieterstraat used to be accessible to the clergy only, ordinary citizens were not allowed here. This part of the city was closed off, completely separate from the secular world. After this clerical enclave had been dissolved the Pieterstraat was contricted in 1644, connecting the Kromme Nieuwegracht canal with the Pieterskerkhof. This happened during a period in which many clerical buildings and convents were replaced by new, secular buildings.
De Rijn (1934)
Here, in the middle of Utrecht, we see an original part of the Rhine. This part of the waterway, called the Kromme Nieuwegracht, dates from Roman times. The canal used to guard the immunity of St Peter, a piece of land belonging to the church and subject to church law. When the immunity was dissolved, the houses were made accessible to citizens and 18 private bridges were built. These bridges belong to the owners of the houses. Except for on the eastern side of the canal, no werfkelders (cellars on the wharf) have been dug here.
The name of this building, Ottone, was derived from its octagonal neobyzantine tower. There used to be a Latin school on this spot. The current building originally was an Apostolic church. Nowadays, it is a location for musical performances, mainly for concerts of the Festival Oude Muziek, which focuses on early music.
Truttige Tuyl (1908)
You are now looking at the building called Truttige Tuyl. It used to belong to the Pieterskerk church and served as a house for church canons. After serving as mayor’s residence for a long time it was abandoned and started to deteriorate. The building was taken by squatters who restored it to its original 17th-cen-tury state. The mayor was so overjoyed that he allowed the squatters to remain there. They named the building ‘Truttige Tuyl’.
Paushuize (1880 / 1890)
Pope Adrian VI, the only Dutch pope, had this palace built hoping to retire here. Unfortunately he never did. The pope, a very strict man, was disgusted by Rome’s frivolity, which he thought a disgrace to the faith. The cardinals saw their lives of luxury slipping away. Within a year from his election Adrian was found dead in his private chamber. It is still believed that his death was not accidental and that he was probably poisoned. Regret-tably, he has never been able to live in this home. The building still bears his name and is now called ‘Paushuize’ (Pope’s House).
'n Nieuwe Oudegracht (1908)
The Nieuwegracht (New Canal) was dug in 1391. This canal was originally intended to improve drainage. But because not everyone could afford a house on the Oudegracht (Old Canal), wealthy merchants created an exact copy of the Oudegracht here, complete with quays and werfkelders (cellars). It is a beautiful place to live, which offers the tranquillity that the Oudegracht is unable to provide.
Time for a break. In this street you see restaurant and café De Rechtbank (The Court of Justice) on your right hand side. There is a large outdoor
seating area hidden behind the fence, which can get very crowded in summer. You can also enjoy a drink indoors. It is possible to end your walk here. Around the corner on the right you can see the Dom Tower again. But for brisk walkers, we still have a beautiful part of Utrecht in store!
If we retrace our steps to where we just came from we end up in the Herenstraat. Many famous people have lived here: the 17th-century painter Jan van Bijlert, the 19th-century attorney general W.T. Baumhauer, the 20th-century poet Martinus Nijhoff, the artist Dirkje Kuik, who even received a silver city medal, the musician Wouter Paap and the musically gifted Andriessen family. Works of art have been created behind many of these doors.
Studentenhuis (1925 / 1935)
On the left hand corner you see a building that houses a student’s dormitory. However, it is not a typical dorm, which might explain why the building is still in such good shape. The students that live here are Catholic. A priest is always present and they offer classes and activities based on Opus Dei.
Tijdelijk Tivoli (1925 / 1927)
You are now standing on Lepelenburg. In 1955, the temporary wooden building of the Tivoli concert hall was erected in this park. Because it would only be there for a few years, four trees were incorporated into the structure. In the end the building stood there for 24 years. The picture showing the ladder truck of the Utrecht fire brigade was made to commemorate the fire brigade exhibit, which was held in Paris in 1927.
Bruntskameren (1965 / 1970)
In 1621, lawyer Frederik Brunt ordered a series of ‘kameren’ to be built on his land on Klein Lepelenburg. Kameren are single-room houses that were meant for poor widows. They could live here for free and were given peat for fuel, candles and food. To be considered for one of these houses the widow had to have lived a virtuous life. From the regentenkamer (regent’s room) in the largest house, chastity and proper behaviour were monitored. The sandstone gate is decorated with hourglasses and skulls: symbols of mortality.
Leeuwenbergh (1920 / 1930)
You are standing in front of the Leeuwenberghkerk, a church that used to be a guesthouse for plague sufferers. Agnes van Leeuwenbergh, an extreme-ly wealthy lady, dedicated her entire heritage to the building of this house. Because the plague is very infectuous, sufferers were not allowed to leave the premises. The gardens were extensive, stretching all the way to the Nieuwegracht. Even up until the 17th century this building still functioned as a guesthouse for plague victims. After that it served as a barracks, a laboratory, a church, and finally, a venue for concerts.
The arch around the corner from the small houses is the entrance to Metelerkamp. Well into the 19th century, wealthy citizens had houses built for the poor. In 1844, Mrs. Metelerkamp had five two-room houses built. Because three of the houses in the alley were doubly occupied, a total of eight families lived there. The houses were meant for poor protestant families, who received free food as well. It is still called Metelerkamp, and at the entrance you will find a small copper plaque documenting its history.
Brigittenklooster (1900 / 1910)
The name of this street is a reference to the former Bridgettine convent, a double monastery. Two monasteries occupied the grounds: one for men
and one for women, a very unusual arrangement at the time. The monastery is named after St Bridget of Sweden. In the 14th century, she dreamt how the birth of Christ actually happened. Not only the faith, but also a lot of art has been based on this story. In the 14th century, Bridget founded the orders of Bridgettines (nuns and monks). Nowadays, there are hardly any Bridgettine monks left.
Catharijneconvent (1920 / 1930)
Here at the Nieuwegracht canal you see, diagonally across, the back of the Catharijneconvent. Originally this was a monastery. But during the rise of Calvinism it was shut down and turned into a hospital. In 1636, when Utrecht University was founded, it became an academic teaching hos-
pital: the forerunner of the modern academic hospital. Since then the building has been converted into a museum. The interior has been completely renovated, partially in modern style. It is definitely worth a visit.
This is the entrance to the Zuilenstraat. Almost all buildings here are monuments, including the house where the famous writer Clare Lennart used to run a boarding house. The author, who used to be a teacher, was discharged from her duties by the city council because she was having an affair with a married man. This was considered a disgrace to the city. However, when the man’s wife died, he did marry Clare and she started writing. Not only did she write many award-winning books, she also translated works by Charles Dickens and she was editor at several magazines and newspapers.
De Lantaarn (1895 / 1905)
This location presents us with a beau-tiful view of the octagonal part of the Dom Tower called ‘the lantern’. It is the largest church spire in The Netherlands (over 112 meters). In 1505, Geert van Wou cast thirteen bells for the lantern: one of the mightiest carillons in Europe. However, the Dom chapter was not satisfied with the bells. In fact, they were so dissatisfied that Geert van Wou was never paid for the bells, which have been hanging in the Dom Tower for over 500 years now.
Kleine Vleeshal (1788)
De Kleine Vleeshal (Small Butchers’ Hall) stands beside the entrance of the Catharijneconvent. The building sits at quite a distance from City Hall and with good reason. The older butchers’ hall was nearer to City Hall. Only members of the butchers’ guild were allowed to carry knives in the city. When butchers murdered mayor Beernt Proys, the guild was instantly disbanded and the members were spread over the other guilds. A large hall was built on the Voorstraat and a smaller one was constructed here. The power of the mighty guild had been broken.
Utrecht boasts 732 werfkelders (quay-side cellars) that generally served as storehouses, forming a connection between the quays and the houses on street level. From the 17th century up-ward more unity in the appearance of the werfkelders was achieved and walls were built. Prior to then their access was only blocked by a gate. During the second half of the 20th century all werfkelders have been completely restored. The werfkelders have been an Utrecht landmark feature ever since.
De werven (1890 / 1905)
Here we have a view of the Hamburger-brug bridge. The wharves, so typical of Utrecht, are clearly visible. At the base of every lamppost on the wharf wall sits a console, a sculpted block carrying superincumbent weight. No less than 330 consoles can be seen along the Utrecht wharves. At the bottom of each console is a description of what is depicted. Important people and events from Utrecht’s history are a popular subject. Viewed as a whole, the consoles constitute a real work of art.
Hamburgerbrug (1910 / 1917)
The name of the Hamburgerbrug is a reference to the medieval city castle Rodenburg, which used to stand on the northeastern side of the bridge. The Oudegracht canal water was used for many purposes, including brewing beer. Between offloading of ships local women would quietly do their laundry here. The Utrecht bridges were also the scene for ‘heuling’: young farmers in love would ride horse-drawn carriages across the bridges of Utrecht. On every bridge they would yell ‘heul heul’, after which the couple would kiss. Because of its immoral character this practice was forbidden.
Lutherse kerk (1747)
The Lutheran church with its beautiful 18th-century façade used to be the chapel of the St Ursula convent, founded by Abraham Dole. The chapel was a so-called double chapel: nuns would follow the service from the balcony on the second floor in order to prevent contact with other people. Such double chapels were not uncommon: in the Centraal Museum, the former Agnietenklooster, you can see one as well.
Utrechts Archief (1853)
You have reached your final destination: the former Paulusabdij (St. Paul’s Abbey), the southern leg of the church cross. After the monasteries were shut down, this building was given a new function as the Provincial Court of Justice. In 1838, it was transformed into the Provincial Courthouse and the District Court. The building also houses the Utrecht Archives, which contains the most extensive collection of prints, photographs, films and pub-lications on the history of the city and province of Utrecht. In addition to temporary exhibitions you can also view a multimedia growth map of Utrecht. Furthermore, the court’s prison cells are still there, in which visitors can ‘do time’.
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