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Visiting Utrecht, The Netherlands, and its Cathedral tower: historic and conspicuous

Updated on November 21, 2011
Flag of The Netherlands
Flag of The Netherlands | Source
Utrecht Cathedral tower
Utrecht Cathedral tower | Source
Utrecht Cathedral, before the summer storm of 1 August 1674 destroyed the nave
Utrecht Cathedral, before the summer storm of 1 August 1674 destroyed the nave | Source
Map location of Utrecht province, The Netherlands
Map location of Utrecht province, The Netherlands | Source

At 112.5 metres, the tallest church building in The Netherlands

If you have been to anywhere near the Downtown area of Utrecht, The Netherlands, you will doubtless have seen the huge Cathedral tower which dominates the city's skyline.

Some history and features

Built in the 14th century, and taking over 60 years to erect and finally completed in 1382, the tower has over a long period become a defining feature of the city.

In common with many large European, cathedral-sized church buildings which are now hundreds of years old, this structure started as a Roman Catholic church building; after the Reformation, it became a Reformed church (1). Although for centuries the building has not had the formal status of a cathedral within the church which uses it, it is still referred to as the Cathedral (Dutch: Domkerk) of St. Martin.

An original St Martin's church was built in the 7th century. Utrecht itself as a settlement is at least 2000 years old.

In Gothic style, this tower is the tallest church building in The Netherlands: quite an achievement in a country which possessed many, ancient and tall church towers. Utrecht's Cathedral tower is actually a structure which in recent centuries has been free-standing, since in 1674 the nave connecting it with the remainder of the building was destroyed.

However, old pictures have survived which show the tower as still an integral part of the building.

The city of Utrecht is the capital of a Dutch province of the same name, centrally located in The Netherlands and with easy road and rail communications with the rest of the country. In many historical accounts, the city is placed by references to the Treaty of Utrecht, signed in the city by various powers in 1713.

A tip for the visitor

A useful thing to remember, for the visitor who is walking around Utrecht and manages to get lost, is to wonder: where is the Cathedral tower? Once located, the visitor will possibly not be lost for very much longer.


(1) I will not attempt here to describe the extraordinarily complex history of Dutch churches which have historically called themselves Reformed (Dutch: either Hervormd or Gereformeerd) or Protestant.

Also worth seeing

In Utrecht itself, the canal known as the 'Oudegracht' is picturesque, with the Cathedral tower a pleasing backdrop.

Amsterdam (distance: 44 kilometres); sights include the Munt tower, the Anne Frank House, and the Royal Palace on the Dam.


How to get there: Airlines flying to Amsterdam-Schipol Airport from New York include Delta Airlines and KLM. The Dutch railroad company NS (Nederlandse Spoorwegen) maintains rail services between Amsterdam-Schipol and Utrecht . There is car rental availability at Amsterdam airport. Please check with the airline or your travel agent for up to date information. Some facilities may be withdrawn, without notice.

MJFenn is an independent travel writer based in Ontario, Canada.


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