Time Travel: Janskerk

(photo via Het Utrechts Archief)

While looking through the online version of Het Utrechts Archief, I came across this 1730 image of Janskerk (St. John’s Church). The church itself was first founded in 1040 by Bishop Bernold and dedicated to St. John the Baptist. In the early-mid 1500s, the church was expanded, and in the 1970s, it was heavily restored. Yet when you look at this image, it’s fascinating to see how little really has changed, at least since this drawing was done.


I tried to get as similar a view as possible, but it’s a surprisingly large church and because of the buildings across the street from the church, I wasn’t able to step back any further to show the surrounding area. In the original drawing, there are just trees, although I’m not sure that isn’t just a bit of artistic license. Yet it’s not that different from how it is now. The square that surrounds the church, known as Janskerkhof, is quite large. In fact, that’s where the weekly flower market is held and the area to the right, behind the apse, is where the Christmas trees are for sale each year.


The church is still used for services every Sunday, but it is also used for a variety of events, both public and private. It can be rented for special programs and is also the usual home of the World Press Photo Exhibit when it comes to Utrecht. It is also a part of the Trajectum Lumen light art installations, with multiple designs in place, both on the grounds, and special changing lights inside the church.


7 thoughts on “Time Travel: Janskerk

  1. The church does look very similar to the one on the drawing, more than I would have suspected knowing about the renovations. The design is in keep with the original building, yet the actual church as it stands now doesn’t look that old. I still like it though, as I used to pass by it every day when I was at uni (the Arts faculty is reisded on various locations on Drift and the Kromme Nieuwegracht).

  2. Interesting though that it isn’t called “Johanneskerk”, as it was dedicated to Johannes de Doper (John the Baptist). Jan is very commonly used as an abbreviation for the name Johannes (most people named Jan officially are named Johannes), but never for saints’ names.

    • I’m so sorry you’re not feeling well! What a lousy end to the year. Beterschap!

      That’s interesting about the Jan/Johannes variations. I hadn’t been that sure about the variations between the two. Interesting that they did go with the more friendly/approachable version.

  3. Hi! That’s indeed what “Jan” is, a more common, familiar version. So for me it’s a bit strange to see it used for a saint 🙂 The female version for Johanna would be Janna,/Jannie/Joke. Petrus could become Piet and so on. Nowadays those Christian names are not very common anymore though. Now girls are called Bloem or Sterre and boys Wolfje or Splinter. Which I think is ridiculous (imagine them growing up and becoming doctors or lawyers, and stil be called Splinter
    🙂 )

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