I’ve walked by this garden a number of times, without realizing it was there. I really do need to spend more time around the Mariaplaats. It’s amazing the things I keep finding there. I was reminded of it recently when viewing some of the great photos of Utrecht on the website Terug Naar Utrecht (Back to Utrecht). Sunday, I decided it was time to finally go see it for myself. A morning of rain seemed like it was going to ruin my plans, but the afternoon cleared up and we were left with surprisingly warm weather and lots of bright sunshine.
The cloister, or pandhof, is all that really remains of the Mariakerk (Church of St. Mary), which was built in the 11th century and remained standing in one form or another until the 1800s. Here’s what the official website has to say about the gardens:
St.Mary’s Cloisters are all that is left of the Church of St. Mary, which formed the centre of the Mariaplaats (St. Mary’s Square). The courtyard and the remaining buildings of the 11th century cloisters surrounding it are known by the name Pandhof Sinte Marie. St. Mary’s Church was a collegiate church; the clergymen (canons) had religious as well as worldly power. They owned houses on their territory (‘immunity’), the Mariaplaats, which was separated from the city by a canal. The church appears on several of Pieter Saenredam’s paintings from the 17th century.
At the end of the 18th century only the choir remained, which was used as a concert-hall. In 1845 it was torn down and the present Arts and Sciences Building (K&W) was erected. The garden was redesigned in 1973. The Mariaplaats has been subjected to many changes over the years, but it has kept its view of the Buurkerk and Dom Tower.