St. Willibrord’s Bell

This was not the blog post I had in mind for today, but the item I was looking for was nowhere to be found, so it will have to wait. Instead, I’ll mention an ongoing event taking place from now through 8 September. It’s the annual Kerken Kijken Utrecht, which has special events and tours of 12 of the city’s most important and interesting historical churches. I may be an atheist, but I have a great fondness for ecclesiastical architecture. In fact, the last time my parents and I were together in Britain, I was the one dragging them to churches, so I could admire the architecture. The running joke was that it was my parents who were making the typical child complaint of “Oh, not another church!”

In looking through some of the information on the website (it’s in Dutch and English), I was truly impressed by the interiors and long history of some of the churches that I’ve seen from the outside, but never viewed the inside. Prepare yourselves. I think I’ll be visiting a lot of churches in the coming months.

One that I have seen inside and out is Sint Willibrordkerk, pictured above. It’s a much more recent church, built between 1875 and 1877, and designed by architect Alfred Tepe (who makes me think of Vlad Tepes, but I’ll spare you the Dracula tangent). It’s crammed in among various shops and former furniture factories, if I remember correctly, and really doesn’t look like much from street level. Of course, there are the spires, as you can see, which rise up and do a decent job of competing with the Domtoren when seen from a certain angle.

St. Willibrord's

The relatively mild-mannered exterior gives way to a riot of colour when you step inside. The building is an amazing example of the Utrecht School of gothic revival, and fortunately, a restoration was carried out recently to help preserve the amazing paintwork that seems to cover almost every inch of the interior. The richness of the colour truly is breathtaking. I didn’t have my camera with me the one time I went inside, but I do hope to go back and try to get some photos. Fortunately, you can get some idea of what it’s like from the link I included above.

Interestingly, although Willibrord has his own church now — and it was one of the first Catholic churches in the city to be built in almost 300 years since the Reformation — he was the one who founded two churches in 695 AD. Those two churches were St. Maarten and St. Salvatore, both of which stood in the Domplein. St. Salvatore is no more, but St. Maarten church became what is the foundation for the cathedral that stands there now.

Ring the Bells

We were over by Sint Willibrordkerk the other week and got to enjoy the sounds of the bells of St. Willibrord ringing out in competition with the Domtoren. If you look closely in this photo, you can actually see the bell in mid-swing (in the lighter-coloured spire).

You can see and hear for yourself in this short video I filmed standing behind the Stadhuis.

If you’re thinking about visiting Utrecht, or are already here, and have an interest in architecture and history, I highly recommend taking advantage of the Kerken Kijken Utrecht openings and tours. Even some of the simpler designs can be incredibly beautiful and awe inspiring.

I ♥ Utrecht

11 thoughts on “St. Willibrord’s Bell

  1. Can’t get enough church bells! Aren’t those joyous? Actually, when I got to Istanbul, I found the call to prayer so serene and mysterious, it made me realize how church bells have slowly been abandoned in America. I rarely hear them except with downtown churches. But the sound! Magnificent!

    • I love the sounds of the various church bells and other clock chimes that I hear throughout the city. When they really start ringing out like they do in the video, it makes me so happy that I get to experience it on a daily basis. I can imagine how wonderful it must be to hear the call to prayer. I’ve always thought it sounded fascinating just on film; in person it must be even better.

  2. I like the Wiilibord Kerk and it’s thin spire, never been inside but now I’m sure to go and check it out. I love the sound of bells chiming as well, it’s such an old sound, I always think of the many many people that have heard those same bells over the past centuries and whose daily routines where dictated by them.

    I also thought of the end song of Disney’s Hunchback of Notre Dame/Klokkenluider van de Notre Dame when reading your post. In Dutch it’s a beautiful song, I like it much better then the English version. It’s called De klokken van de Notre Dame, you can look it up on youtube. The Dutch singer’s last high note is fantastic 🙂

    • You should love the inside of Willibrordkerk with all the colour! Especially compared to all the white interiors of the Reformation churches. 😉

      I like that idea of so many people over all the years listening to the same bells.

      I got to meet some klokkenluiders a few weeks ago. If my Dutch ever improves, I should see if they take apprentices!

  3. You know, I was exactly the same as a child. First church service I ever went to I was 13 (and it was a friends), but as a kid (and adult) I’ve always loved to go into churches and just look around at the architecture, the designs, the floors, and the silence.

    Thanks again for a great post.

    • There really is something special in the old churches. You can see how it could inspire awe. I simply stand in awe of the amazing things people were able to build without all of the modern machinery.

  4. Really enjoyed this post because I too love churches despite also being an atheist.
    I actually grew up right next to a catholic church and I was always fascinated by it. Loved the serenity of the space and most of all the sound you get inside!

  5. There is something really serene when you enter a church, then again I too am an atheist and just enjoy the beauty of the building. Not to mention, a lot of churches are great places for when you need a breather.

    As I’ve lived for so long near church bells, I find myself not hearing them anymore or having to focus to hear how many chimes there were, and I usually miss the first 2 chimes. 😀

    • I always somehow miss a chime or two, especially when I wake up in the middle of the night and I’m hoping it’s not some ridiculously awful hour.

  6. Pingback: Time Travel: Hiëronymus Gasthuis « A Flamingo in Utrecht

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