I’ve walked by this garden a number of times, without realizing it was there. I really do need to spend more time around the Mariaplaats. It’s amazing the things I keep finding there. I was reminded of it recently when viewing some of the great photos of Utrecht on the website Terug Naar Utrecht (Back to Utrecht). Sunday, I decided it was time to finally go see it for myself. A morning of rain seemed like it was going to ruin my plans, but the afternoon cleared up and we were left with surprisingly warm weather and lots of bright sunshine.
The cloister, or pandhof, is all that really remains of the Mariakerk (Church of St. Mary), which was built in the 11th century and remained standing in one form or another until the 1800s. Here’s what the official website has to say about the gardens:
St.Mary’s Cloisters are all that is left of the Church of St. Mary, which formed the centre of the Mariaplaats (St. Mary’s Square). The courtyard and the remaining buildings of the 11th century cloisters surrounding it are known by the name Pandhof Sinte Marie. St. Mary’s Church was a collegiate church; the clergymen (canons) had religious as well as worldly power. They owned houses on their territory (‘immunity’), the Mariaplaats, which was separated from the city by a canal. The church appears on several of Pieter Saenredam’s paintings from the 17th century.
At the end of the 18th century only the choir remained, which was used as a concert-hall. In 1845 it was torn down and the present Arts and Sciences Building (K&W) was erected. The garden was redesigned in 1973. The Mariaplaats has been subjected to many changes over the years, but it has kept its view of the Buurkerk and Dom Tower.
Thanks to Mark’s incredibly helpful and informative comments on my last post about Mariahoek, I now know a bit more about that area of town. The
embarrassingfunny thing about it all is that I failed to make the connection between the Mariaplaats/hoek/hof of the area with the painting I saw at the Mauritshuis Museum on a recent visit. I was particularly enamored with a series of paintings by Saenredam, in part, because they had such a clean, simplicity of style, line and color, but also because they depicted churches here in Utrecht. In fact, I was so taken by one of the paintings (the one pictured above) that I bought the postcard of it. I kept meaning to do some more research on the church and artist, but it slipped my mind. How serendipitous that I should find out this way!
I was reminded of Mariahoek again this morning, as I awoke early to the sound of a rooster! Hearing a rooster in the city center is a bit unusual, to say the least. Our windows were open for a change, since we’ve had some very high temperatures for the past 36+ hours, so the morning noises were easier to hear. At first I thought the sound I heard was a yapping dog, but then I realized I was hearing the clarion call of a rooster. Perhaps it was the Haan statue at Mariahoek come to life! Or maybe it was one of the animals over at the Griftpark and the sound was just travelling really well. Perhaps there’s a surprise rooster living in one of the hidden gardens somewhere in the neighborhood. All have their moments of credibility in the old city center, depending on the amount of delirium due to the hour and the heat!
ETA: A couple of hours after posting this, I came across some news about another Saenredam painting, this time of Janskerk here in Utrecht, being discovered at auction and now on display for a few months at the Centraal Museum here in town!