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.
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.
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.