A Square That Should Not Be

The other week, as part of the city’s anniversary celebrations, the Domtoren was playing a variety of songs, including popular local songs. One of my favourites, and the one that you can hear in this video I filmed, is called Utereg Me Stadje, which is a local dialect way of saying Utrecht, My City. It was written and performed in the 1970s by Herman Berkien, an Utrecht folk and cabaret singer. If you want to hear his version, there are a number of options on YouTube, including this one.

As for the video itself, it was filmed in the Domplein, and I’m standing where the nave of the cathedral used to be. You see, Utrecht has a grand, Gothic cathedral … it’s just missing half of it. The nave was destroyed in a heavy storm in 1674. There wasn’t the money to rebuild it, nor it seems, was there money to clean up the mess, since it wasn’t officially cleaned up until 1829. No, that’s not a typo. I thought I procrastinated!

The large statue in the video and in the photo above is a war memorial and it stands up against the outer wall of what is left of the cathedral. Essentially, all that is left is the transept (the arms part of the cross) and the apse (the part with the altar, etc.). In the photo, you can see that they’ve painted the wall with a trompe l’oeil effect to make it look as if you’re looking toward the apse, giving you the view you’d have if the nave still stood.

Parts of the cathedral ruins were used for other buildings, I’m sure, as they always are. What is interesting about the site now is that they’ve marked out, using different coloured bricks, where parts of the cathedral and other buildings used to stand.Β  In the following photo, you can see the octagonal shape where one of the columns inside the nave used to stand. Next to it is a floor memorial or some sort of similar marker that echoes the numerous ones inside the cathedral.

Ghost Columns

On one hand, it’s sad that the full Gothic structure doesn’t remain. On the other hand, we’ve got a wonderful square that is used for all sorts of events, as you can perhaps tell from the banging sounds of construction in the background of my video. They were setting up two different stages that day in preparation for the Stadsdag events and the following day’s Cultural Sunday dance events. It’s a wonderful meeting place, and in the end, I’m kind of glad they didn’t rebuild it. The tower may be lonely, as a new song says, and it might be the square that wasn’t meant to be, but it has become a beautiful blend of man and nature, as the trees stand as their own columns now.

Occupy Utrecht


18 thoughts on “A Square That Should Not Be

  1. If you can read Dutch you should pick up the book Stad in de Storm by Thea Beckman. It’s a young adults book. It tells the story about a young boy who lived in Utrecht during the French occupation in 1672-1674. The book was written in 1979 and won the Zilveren Griffel in 1980.

    • I know which book you’re talking about! I haven’t read it, but I was intrigued by it when I saw it at the VVV office. I want to get it once my Dutch has improved a little bit more.

  2. The trompe ‘oeil effect is incredible!
    And you’ve caught the dancers again – they do know hoe to do things properly, there!
    You know, when I think of what goes in in my main city – it’s pitiful next to Utrecht!
    Shows it CAN be done!

  3. I like the photo of the statue a lot. It’s true, on the one hand one feels sorry that the cathedral was never rebuilt, but then it wouldn’t be such an original and special place, would it?
    Were those people dancing tango? It looks like it πŸ™‚

    • That photo of the statue is a couple of years old, but when I was going through my photos, looking for a good one, this one really jumped out. I’m glad others like it as well.

      The dancers were doing a mix of dances, although done to whatever music the domtoren was ringing out, so sometimes a bit slower than normal. πŸ˜‰ It was a nice teaser for the dance events the next day.

  4. Love the travel log of interesting places where you live. I’m not there…but I feel like I am. Like a…fly on the wall…and happy to be.


      • How long have you lived there? Was it hard to adjust initially? Seems like you’ve done a marvelous job in the long run. Are you there permanently?

        take care…and keep blogging.

        • I’ve been here about four years now, and we plan on staying. I haven’t found it that hard to adjust, to be honest, but I tend to be fairly laid back about things. I wish it was easier/cheaper to learn the language, but other than that I feel comfortable here.

    • With close to 2000 years of history in this one spot, there’s always something to learn and enjoy. Just doing my bit to encourage others to visit this great city! πŸ™‚

  5. Ah you are back in Holland again. Wonderful pictures. I love the painting on the wall. Haven’t seen that before. Utrecht is a nice city. We had planned to visit there as we passed it on the way back from Amsterdam but we were to tired.

    • I haven’t been on vacation, unfortunately, just a bit busy. πŸ™‚ It’s a shame you didn’t get to visit Utrecht while you were back, but I understand that sometimes you just need to rest, especially when you’re on vacation and have so much to do and so much family to see.

  6. Reblogged this on A Flamingo in Utrecht and commented:

    My computer is on the fritz so while I wait for my new one to be delivered, I’m taking the easy way out and reblogging one of my old posts. Today is the anniversary of the massive storm in 1674 that caused the nave of the cathedral to collapse. This old posts tells a bit of that story.

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