The Missing Nave


This is a different view of the St. Martin’s Cathedral than I usually get, but it does give you a better sense of just how big the cathedral was when it was complete (or close enough). The part that remains is the transept (the part that essentially forms the arms of the cross of many churches) and the apse (the usually rounded bit at the top of the cross/church). As I’ve explained before, the nave (or main body of the cathedral) was destroyed in a storm in the 1600s. It reached all the way to the Domtoren, which is just out of sight on the far left of the photo. Seeing the church from this angle really does give a better sense of just how big it was and just how much was lost in the storm.

Plus, bonus bakfiets (the sort of wheelbarrow bike) on the right!

Weekly Photo Challenge: Windows

I haven’t done one of the Weekly Photo Challenges in a while, but I do have a fondness for windows, which is this week’s theme, so I couldn’t resist. It was an early theme last year, as well, and I did a post about the cathedral’s windows then and I’m doing the cathedral windows again. They’re a regular source of inspiration, thanks to both their Gothic beauty and the light they often catch. They may not feature much stained glass nowadays, but they still glow with the sunlight that courses through them.
Inner GlowInner GlowInner Glow
Inner GlowThe cathedral in Utrecht (Netherlands) is known as the Dom or St. Martin’s Cathedral and construction of its current form was begun in 1254. Previous incarnations of the church (first dating back to 630) were destroyed by fire, Normans, and other typical architectural challenges of the time.

The cathedral is the only one of its kind in the Netherlands to closely resemble the classic Gothic architectural style of France. Other Gothic cathedrals in the Netherlands feature more regional variations. In 1566, statues, reliefs, and other interior decorations were destroyed as a result of the Calvinist austerity that was sweeping through the Low Countries at the time. Although originally a Catholic church, it became a Protestant church in 1580.

That wasn’t to be the end of the drama. In 1674, the nave of the cathedral collapses during a massive storm and was never rebuilt. Fortunately, the transept and apse remain and are still in use.

Utrecht’s Stormy History

Under the Dom
On 1 August 1674, the nave of the cathedral in Utrecht was destroyed by a tornado. Strong winds whipped through and severely damaged the already weak structure. Much of the damage may have been because the nave was built from weaker materials to save costs, but a substantial tornado did hit the city. Along with the cathedral’s nave, the towers of five churches were damaged or destroyed, and all but two of the windmills along the city walls were destroyed. [BUISMAN, J. (2000): Duizend jaar weer, wind en water in de Lage Landen. Van Wijnen, p.767.]

The nave originally connected the cathedral to the Domtoren (the bell tower). You can see the original layout and what it looks like now in these axonometrics:

The nave was never rebuilt, although there are markers in the ground showing where the columns and outlines of the nave once stood. Instead, the area now serves as the home for the memorial statue that recognizes those who gave their lives during wartime in service to the Netherlands. There is also a large painting giving a sort of tromp l’oeil look into the part of the cathedral still standing.

I suspect it could be argued that the open space left from not rebuilding the nave has ultimately been more useful over the centuries than the nave itself might have been if it had been rebuilt. As it stands now, this space between the cathedral and domtoren is used on a regular basis, probably at least monthly, for one event or another. This past weekend it served as the market place and staging area for fashion shows during the Summer Darkness festival. It has been a staging area for many a Cultural Sunday event, and the site of the DJ op de Dom event in which DJs and VJs and light artists get together to put on one hell of a dance party for around 10,000 people.

Vrede van Utrecht presents DJ op de Dom 2010 // HD1280x720 from Vrede van Utrecht on Vimeo.

Fortunately, the Domtoren remained standing after the storm, and it remains a symbol of the city to this day. The bells chime out hourly and during the summer, weekly carillon concerts are held every Monday evening at 20:00. The concerts are running through August, and if you choose to go, the Pandhof (cloistered garden) area is thought to be one of the best spots to enjoy the performance. There’s usually some sort of refreshment on hand, as well. I’m thinking of going this evening. It seems like a perfect day to take in the performance on such an historic date. Fortunately, we’ve finally got sunshine today, so little chance of any more tornadoes to wreak havoc.