Crowdsourcing a Cathedral

CathedralThe theme of this week’s Weekly Photo Challenge (for which I’m just scraping in under the wire) is Monuments. I had thought of doing something a little less obvious, but when I saw some news stories this week, I figured I’d go with the obvious monument here in Utrecht: the Domkerk or St. Martin’s Cathedral.

The best example of French Gothic church architecture in the Netherlands, the cathedral is a standout for a variety of reasons, including the fact that the nave of the cathedral was destroyed in a storm in the 1600s and never rebuilt. Various chapels and churches dedicated to St. Martin have stood there since around 700 AD. Construction of the current church began in 1254. As old as it is, and considering what it’s faced over the centuries, conservation and restoration are vital.

Currently, two of the buttresses (luchtbogen in Dutch) need to be repaired and restored. There is no government subsidy to help, so a crowdfunding campaign has begun, with the hopes of raising the €50,000 necessary for the work. If you want to make a donation, go to the Draag de Dom website. As well as doing something good to help maintain this beautiful symbol of Utrecht, you also receive various rewards, depending on the size of the donation.
Inner GlowApse

The Paushuize, Publishing, and Me

My article in Dutch the MagazineDespite my excitement in yesterday’s post about my photo and name appearing in the new book about the Domtoren, I do actually have a background in publishing. In the US, I had my first article — a software game review — published in Compute magazine while I was still in high school. (Although there was a bit of nepotism there, as my dad was one of the editors. But still, it passed muster!) In fact, I ended up following in my dad’s professional footsteps after university and worked for a group of magazines, working my way up from assistant editor to editor-in-chief. So I’ve seen my name in print plenty of times and I’ve even had the cover feature on occasion.

Even with the experience, though, there’s still a thrill to seeing your work published. I regularly write for websites (although my name isn’t always attached), but there’s an extra thrill I get from seeing my name in print on paper. I remember when I first moved to New York and saw one of my articles in a magazine for sale at the Barnes & Noble at Union Square. It gave me a real sense of satisfaction.

However, it’s been a while since my name has appeared in physical print next to my writing, so when I recently received my issue of Dutch: The Magazine with my article about the Paushuize and the Netherlands’ only pope, I got to relive that frisson of excitement. I’ve had some of my photos appear in print over the past few years, including one in the previous issue of Dutch, but this is my first full article in a while.My article in Dutch the Magazine

The magazine is published in North America, so if you’re interested in seeing it for yourself, you can try some of your area book stores, etc. I’m not sure how widespread the publication is, but it is growing, so you never know. It’s definitely worth looking for, especially since Invader Stu has a new monthly column in the magazine, as well. If you can’t pick up a copy, I really do suggest you plan a visit to Utrecht so you can take one of the guided tours of the Paushuize. There was so much great information about the palace, the pope, and the city that I didn’t have room to include!My article in Dutch the Magazine

A New Perspective on the Domtoren

De Utrechtse DomtorenThis week’s Weekly Photo Challenge theme is “perspective”. Sitting at one of the terraces beneath the Domtoren yesterday, enjoying the sunshine, I couldn’t resist this photo of the tower, specifically because of the perspective. Some of the building and some of the perspective gets lost in the photo. You need to be sitting there, craning your neck back to see the top of the tower, 112 meters up in the sky, to really understand the immense size. It remains awe inspiring.

But I also have another new perspective on the Domtoren, in a more personal sense. Saturday, a new book was published about the history of the Domtoren and its building process. The book weighs in around 2.5 kilos, and features a variety of illustrations showing some of the building (and renovation) processes, along with other related historic pictures. I had known for some time now that the book was being worked on and had been debating whether or not to pick up a copy of my own.
De Utrechtse Domtoren
Saturday, we stopped at the VVV offices (tourist info offices), because I wanted to see the book in person. (They had specifically mentioned having the book there.) Yet when I got there, it was no where to be found! Unless I missed it among the crowds, the only reference to it I saw was a picture of the cover in a display of other Domtoren related paraphernalia. Looking closer, it seemed as if the book wouldn’t be presented until later that afternoon. Disappointed, I figured I’d look for it another day. But then, just around the corner (and still in the shadow of the Domtoren), I saw a big display for the book at Libris book store.
Domtoren Book Display at LibrisObviously, I had to go in. I heaved up a copy and opened it. There, on the first inside pages, was a collection of various photos of the Domtoren, taken from different perspectives. I had seen this collage before in a promotional post about the book, but hadn’t been sure that it would actually be included. As soon as I saw it was, I knew then and there I had to buy a copy. You see, one of my very own photos of the Domtoren was included!De Utrechtse DomtorenMine is the view through the archway beneath the tower. I had sent in the photo during a request last year for photos of the Domtoren, but hadn’t necessarily expected to have any of my photos included. I then flipped to the back of the book to check the index and yes, indeed, all of the participating photographers were mentioned. In fact, I was right there at the beginning!That's me in the index ...And in a bit of serendipity, that particular photo is the one I chose to use on some contact cards I recently had printed.

I managed to restrain myself from pointing all of this out to the person at the register or the people in line around me. But that didn’t stop me from being rather giddy about it all for the rest of the day. After all of my blogging about the city and the Domtoren, by having my photo included in this important book, I feel a little bit more like I truly belong here in this city I’ve chosen to call home. I’ve become a miniscule part of the tower’s hundreds of years of history. This thrills me in the same way I still get a thrill every time I see the Domtoren, whether it’s up close or from a distance over the rooftops.

I should also add that Saturday was my birthday. How’s that for a birthday present!
De Utrechtse Domtoren

Design Across Time in Utrecht’s Stadhuis

Stadhuis InteriorWhile I was in the Stadhuis last week to see the Donker Utrecht exhibit, I ended up exploring a bit more of the building than I’d seen in the past. Along one of the back hallways I saw some interior windows open and looked down to see a great view of this central meeting room. Although the current Stadhuis is different from the one that stood on the site during the signing of the Treaty of Utrecht, it’s still the same location. In fact, the painting on the right may well be a depiction of the Treaty of Utrecht parties, similar to The Agreement photo I posted about last time. (I forgot to take a look when I went back downstairs, so I can’t say for sure.)Stadhuis InteriorAnyway, the room, including it’s ceiling, had some nice architectural elements that caught my eye. Equally eye-catching were a series of Art Deco stained glass windows (glas in lood) donated in the 1930s by various groups and individuals, including a former mayor. I particularly liked the look of his, with it’s Metropolis-style design, including the Domtoren and the red-and-white city shield. (The pictures of each window are in two pieces as the hallway was too narrow to get the whole window in one shot.)
Stadhuis InteriorStadhuis Interior
The student-donated window seems to favor some of the Mondriaan/De Stijl elements of design.
Stadhuis InteriorStadhuis Interior

The Agreement’s In The Bag

The AgreementLast year, as part of the Treaty of Utrecht anniversary celebrations, a massive photo canvas was hung from the front of the Stadhuis, signifying the various parties involved in the historic agreement.

The image was a composite of photos taken by artist Red Saunders, melded beautifully into a fascinating tableau. After the celebrations, there had been the hope that a place would be found where the image could hang on permanent display. Unfortunately, the sheer size meant that it just wasn’t feasible. It could have been folded up and left somewhere to gather dust, but an alternative solution was agreed upon.

The variety of cultural festivals and events that take place here in Utrecht produce a number of sturdy banners that would become garbage if someone didn’t find an alternative use. As part of the duurzaamheid (sustainability) that is of growing interest, many of the old banners have been transformed into sturdy, unusual, and stylish bags. The people who have been doing this are going to do the same with The Agreement. Rather than have the large image languish in oblivion, it will be turned into a bag that can also be used as a picnic blanket, perfect for the Bevrijdingsfestival. Anyone interested can order one for just €20, and have their own personal and functional keepsake.

Now if only I could get a bag made out of the section with the dogs …The Agreement

Weekly Photo Challenge: Windows

I haven’t done one of the Weekly Photo Challenges in a while, but I do have a fondness for windows, which is this week’s theme, so I couldn’t resist. It was an early theme last year, as well, and I did a post about the cathedral’s windows then and I’m doing the cathedral windows again. They’re a regular source of inspiration, thanks to both their Gothic beauty and the light they often catch. They may not feature much stained glass nowadays, but they still glow with the sunlight that courses through them.
Inner GlowInner GlowInner Glow
Inner GlowThe cathedral in Utrecht (Netherlands) is known as the Dom or St. Martin’s Cathedral and construction of its current form was begun in 1254. Previous incarnations of the church (first dating back to 630) were destroyed by fire, Normans, and other typical architectural challenges of the time.

The cathedral is the only one of its kind in the Netherlands to closely resemble the classic Gothic architectural style of France. Other Gothic cathedrals in the Netherlands feature more regional variations. In 1566, statues, reliefs, and other interior decorations were destroyed as a result of the Calvinist austerity that was sweeping through the Low Countries at the time. Although originally a Catholic church, it became a Protestant church in 1580.

That wasn’t to be the end of the drama. In 1674, the nave of the cathedral collapses during a massive storm and was never rebuilt. Fortunately, the transept and apse remain and are still in use.

Time Travel: Driftbrug

Photo via Het Utrechts Archiefphoto via Het Utrechts Archief

This is just a quick post to show a bit of then and now and how little has changed in 100 years. This is a view of the Driftbrug, a bridge over the Drift canal. To the right, the street become Wittevrouwenstraat and to the left it becomes Voorstraat. Today, a number of the Utrecht University buildings line the street along the canal where the photo was taken, while expensive homes and various businesses line the canal in the distance. At that point, the canal becomes known as the Plompetorengracht.

Although the buildings have changed purpose since this photo was taken in 1908, the majority of them have remained roughly the same. That said, one of the unseen buildings on the left has changed quite a bit, as have the stairs leading down to the canal. It’s all a bit more crowded with signs, traffic lights, and of course, lots and lots of bikes, but it doesn’t take much imagination to see what it was like just over 100 years ago.

Time Travel Through Art

Wall of Utrecht
A few months ago, while looking through Pinterest, I saw a fantastic graphic-style print of Utrecht that I fell in love with instantly. Besides the style of it, I loved the different aspects of the city that were represented. Sadly, when I clicked through, trying to find any information about the artist or where I could buy a copy of it, I came up blank.

Imagine my thrill when I was walking down Domstraat recently, admiring the artwork on display in the windows of Catch, a local art store, and suddenly there it was, the print I had been searching for! The store was closed at the time, but I went in last week to enquire about the print. Pondering a bit more, I ended up going back yesterday and bought it. It’s the large print on the right, in case you hadn’t figured that out. It’s signed and numbered, even! The artist is Utrecht-based Jochem Coenen, and I absolutely love his style that seems to combine traditional and modern illustration so beautifully.

As well as buying the print, I also picked up some frames for some modern and antique prints I’ve been collecting. One is a print from 1857 of one of the early incarnations of the Paushuize. I’ve been writing a lot about the Paushuize recently for various websites and publications, so when I came across the print, I couldn’t resist. The pen and ink drawing of the Domtoren and Oudegracht is one that I picked up recently from another local artist, Ellessi, and the final print is another antique print of Utrecht depicting the bend in the Oudegracht in front of the Stadhuis.
Antique UtrechtIt’s a spot that is still recognizable, although much of it has changed in the past two hundred years or so, well, except for the Domtoren, of course. The Stadhuis (white buildings, center left) was rebuilt in a neo-Classic style around 1830. The crane on the left was originally built in 1402, although it underwent various updates and rebuilds until it finally gave up the ghost in 1837, while trying to unload the large caryatids that form the columns of the Winkel van Sinkel.
I recently came across a painting of roughly the same spot as my print by an Utrecht artist, Georg-Gillis van Haanen (1807-1879).
Nowadays, although many of the buildings have changed, that curve of the old canal, with the Domtoren rising up above the city, remains instantly recognizable. I’m sure even the artists of these images would soon feel at home.
The Agreement

St. Augustine Revisited, Again, Once More

Castillo de San Marcos
You thought I was going to talk about that church again, didn’t you. You’re probably relieved, if not a little confused, to see this photo. What is it? Why, it’s the Castillo de San Marcos in St. Augustine, Florida! You see, this is where my mind first goes to when I hear the words St. Augustine. Sure, sure, there’s Augustine of Hippo, the theologian who blathered on about original sin, but as a native Floridian, the city in northern Florida is my Augustine of choice.

But that’s all you’re going to get about the city that most Floridians visit on a school field trip when studying Florida history in fourth grade. I actually am going to tell you a tiny bit more about the church here in Utrecht. Psych! How could I resist when I’ve been sitting on these photos for the past month. They were a few of the photos that survived my camera’s memory stick crash.
AugustiniuskerkAs I’ve mentioned, the church is on the Oudegracht, the main canal running through the city. Its location gives it a pretty spectacular appearance, especially when viewed down on the wharves at the canal level. Interestingly, although many churches are built so that the altar area is situated facing east and the entrance is facing west, this church is oriented the opposite way, mainly because it would have been a shame to have the glorious facade on the smaller Rozenstraat behind it.

If you’re interested as to why churches usually have the altar end facing east, there are a few reasons. The main being that the altar faces east toward Jerusalem, but there’s also the symbolism of the sun rising in the east, signifying rebirth. That was one of the reasons for the development of the stained glass apses in Gothic churches. During morning services, the rising sun would illuminate the glorious windows and leave worshippers in awe.
Augustinuskerk was built in 1839-40 and was the first large Roman Catholic church to be built in Utrecht after the Reformation. The architect for this neo-classical church was Karel George Zocher, whom I know better for his work designing some of the park areas along the eastern edge of the old city center.

The neo-classical style is evident in the large columns across the front of the church, which support the classic Doric entablature. There’s also a fantastic running key pattern that runs across the front entrance.

I’ve not gone inside the church, but my research and some of the interior photos I’ve seen tell me the interior is neo-baroque, with a heavily decorated altar and side chapels. However, it also seems that the church is closed during the winter, so I may have to wait a while to see the interior for myself. But then, I think it’s the exterior that I’m bound to like the most anyway.

A Cupola, a Cross, and a Case of Nerves

Augustiniuskerk Kruis
While standing outside at Neude yesterday, I couldn’t help but enjoy the sunshine and the blue skies. As I stood there, I realized that I had a clear view of the cupola and cross of the Augustiniuskerk (St. Augustine Church) I posted about a couple of days ago for one of my Time Travel posts.

I knew I had to get a photo of the cross after reading the wonderful story Mark told in the comments about his great-grandfather who made the cross and ended up installing it when no one else was willing to brave the heights. I highly recommend reading his story and then look a little closer at the photos and marvel that anyone was able to get up there at all!