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. 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.
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.