Getting a Peek Inside the Pope’s House

Thanks to Twitter, I found out this week that the Paushuize (Pope House) would be open to the public this morning. As a quick refresher, it’s the house built by the only Dutch pope, Adrian VI, although he never got to live in it. As it’s primarily used for conferences and such nowadays, it’s not usually open to the public except for special events. Even though it was only the ground floor that was open today, I knew I had to go.

I’ve written about the Pauishuize (Pope House) before and I recommend giving it a read again, if for no other reason than to laugh at my excitement over the Holy Roman Empire. Plus, there’s a bit of interesting history about Pope Adrian. It turns out he was the last non-Italian pope until Pope John Paul II.

Anyway, here are some photos of the inside. There were only a few rooms open, but they were quite stunning. This room is what we jokingly referred to as the small breakfast nook. Of course, if you’ve seen one coffered-ceiling breakfast nook you’ve seen them all.


There was one section with three rooms leading off each other, reminding me a bit of the shotgun houses in New Orleans. One was a rich red with an impressive fireplace, the next was a soft green, and then the last was black and decorated with numerous paintings of the pope. The wallpapers in all of the rooms were fabric and textured.

I think the green room paid homage to the fact that Louis Bonaparte (Lodewijk Napoleon in Dutch) and his wife Hortense stayed in the house briefly while the residence on Voorstraat was being completed. The couple were the King and Queen of Holland from 1806-1810, having been appointed to the position by Napoleon. There is a bust of her in the green room. If you’re wondering, there were chocolate eggs and bunnies placed in random spots throughout the house.
Paushuize Hortense(?)

There were also some wonderful paintings throughout the house. This next one was amusing, as it seems to depict Utrecht, but with a greater sense of hilliness that you’d expect. Still, the panel on the left does include the Domtoren and looks as if it could be representing the southern end of the city walls near the Sonnenborgh Museum.
Paushuize Unexpected Hills

However, my favorite painting was a representation of the Wittevrouwenpoort, which I’ve also posted about before.
Wittevrouwenpoort (Detail)

Finally, as you enter the door into the courtyard of the property, the first reaction from everyone seems to be, “wow!” Sadly, my photo doesn’t do it justice, but it really was quite stunning, in part because it was so unexpected. It wasn’t just the bitterly cold wind that was taking our breath away!
Paushuize Wow

On the off chance you want to see more, I’ve got a few more photos of the Paushuize in a set on Flickr and I’ll probably go back and add a few more eventually.

Utrecht’s Old City Gates

Like any big city that was around in the middle ages, Utrecht took its safety seriously and build walls around the city center. The city had the added benefit of an encircling canal, acting a bit like a moat. There were only four entrances into the city and one of those was on the eastern side. The Wittevrouwenpoort (gate) stood where the Wittevrouwenbrug (bridge) now stands. Wittevrouwen (white ladies) refers to the cloister that stood nearby until 1710.

Last year, I’d heard they were installing a memorial plaque, but then never saw it appear anywhere. Early this month, while walking back from Biltstraat, I noticed the plaque on one of the bridge railing posts. I think it must be relatively new, or I’ve been incredibly blind for months. Either is possible. Anyway, the artwork is taken from this drawing of the gate done in 1646:
Wittevrouwenpoort te Utrecht door Herman Saftleven in 1646

The gate stood there, in one form or another, until 1858, when it was demolished. It was still there in 1813 when the Cossacks arrived into the city.
Wittevrouwenpoort te Utrecht in 1813 door Pieter Gerardus van Os

And here’s a view from the same direction today:
View from Biltstraat
Not quite as impressive, I’m afraid. The building on the right with the clock tower was built when the gate was demolished, in essentially the same spot at the gate stood. It served as a police station until 1980 and is now a lawyers’ office.

Time Travel: Wittevrouwenstraat

Witte Vrouwenstraat 1947
This is an area I know very well, so it’s particularly interesting to me to see how it used to look. In this case, the photo dates back to 1947. It’s not that long ago, but it still amazes me to see the horses being used to pull carts. Not surprising are the bicycles and bakfietsen.

As you can see, it really hasn’t changed much at all in the past 60+ years. Other than the addition of the steet signals and the absence of trams, things have remained pretty much unchanged.

This is an important part of the old city center. Since the middle ages, it has been one of only four entrances into the city center and it used to have a protective gate right at this spot where the bridge is. If it’s not clear, there’s a canal running beneath the bridge. That canal is part of what is essentially a moat that goes around the old city center. The gate was eventually torn down in 1858. This is also where the Canadian forces entered the city when they liberated it from the German forces at the end of World War II.

Here’s another image of the same area and you can see that the buildings further down the street have also remained the same over the years.
Witte Vrouwenpoort
Here’s a better contemporary view down the street without all of the signal lights in the way. You can better see just how little this corner of the city has changed.

Wittevrouwen means white women and refers to the order of nuns (I assume it referred to them wearing white habits) who had a cloister in this area. Nowadays, the Utrecht brewery De Leckere sells a white bier with the name Wittevrouwen, drawing perfectly from the city’s history.