I took these photos back in December, but forgot to post about them. Today, however, one of the stars of this fantastic bit of wall art reminded me that it was time to post them. You see, Sheriff, the black and white cat at the center of the painting, performed his usual task of escorting us to and from our home today. He prowls the neighborhood, keeping an eye on things, and I think perhaps he courts one of the neighborhood cats, although from the sounds of things, I’m not sure how successfully.
The mural is a mix of Utrecht icons. As well as Sheriff, another neighborhood icon is the white building, which is now a lawyer’s office but was once a police station. It has a clock tower that rings out the hour and half hour throughout the neighborhood. Of course, the mural also features a couple of other Utrecht icons, namely the Domtoren and the city’s notable canals with wharves below street level.
I always love these creative uses of large blank wall spaces. The artists who fill them explore a fantastic range of subjects and styles, and they’re always worth admiring.
Throughout Utrecht, references to Sint Maarten (St. Martin) pop up everywhere. Perhaps not surprising, since he is Utrecht’s patron saint. The cathedral (where the above image is found) was dedicated to Sint Maarten,and the city’s coat of arms/flag is a visual reference to the saint’s history.
I’ve mentioned the city’s red and white flag in the past and how it relates to Sint Maarten. The story goes that Maarten was approached by a beggar on the street. As a poor soldier, Maarten had no money to give and was not allowed to give away his military coat, so he got creative and cut his red coat in half in order to at least share it with the beggar. That night, in a dream, the grateful beggar revealed himself to be Jesus.
The city’s coat of arms (a shield divided diagonally into red and white) and flag (the same diagonal red and white) represent the red cloak and the white undershirt of Maarten.
Although the story may be old, it seems to hold a special place in the heart of one local resident in the Wittevrouwen neighborhood. He recently commissioned a large mural of the saint for the side of his house. At the corner of Zandhofsestraat and Bladstraat, the story of Sint Maarten cutting his coat for the beggar is depicted against the backdrop of the historic old Wittevrouwen city gate.
The mural was created by artists Zinzi Rozema and Marij Nielen (of the Makershuis Maanzaad), along with Jos Peeters. It’s a simple but striking image of two of Utrecht’s great symbols. Rather appropriately, you can even see the Utrecht flag hanging to the left of the mural.
Utrecht, the city, is made up of a number of smaller neighborhoods. Today, they’ve all converged in my neighborhood for a parade, dinner, and party in the park. This is the kickoff to a weekend-long celebration called Vrede in de Buurt (Peace in the Neighborhood). More to come!