The iconic freestanding Gothic-style Domtoren reaches an impressive 112.5 meters (368 feet) in height. It is the tallest church tower in the Netherlands and a popular attraction for tourists. The tower majestically soars up from Domplein (Cathedral Square), the location where the city was founded almost two thousand years ago.
Some interesting facts:
- Visitors can climb the 465 steps to the top of the tower through a steep, narrow stairwell. A challenging climb but rewarding. The top gallery of Domtoren’s crown-like lantern, gives an impressive 360° view of the sprawling city of Utrecht and its Medieval center. On a clear day you can see all the way to Amsterdam and Rotterdam.
- The Romans were the first to build a military fort on this site, the Castellum of Trajectum, around 45-47 AD. They later abandoned the settlement in 275.
- Willibrord, the first Bishop of Utrecht, established a missionary post and a small church from the remnants of the ancient Roman fort around 695. He dedicated this church to St. Martin of Tours who would become the patron saint of the city of Utrecht.
- Several churches stood on the site of the current Domtoren, one destroyed by the Vikings and several by fire. In 1328 construction of a cathedral with the tower that still stands today started. The building was completed in 1382
- On August 1st 1674, a significant blow would occur in the long and troubled history of St. Martin’s cathedral and tower. A tornado ripped through the city and wiped out the cathedral’s nave, permanently separating the tower from the cathedral. St. Martin’s Cathedral and the Domtoren would remain as two separate structures going forward. The vacant area, where the central nave once stood, would become a public square (Domplein).
- Malgosia Fiebig is the twenty-first carillonist of the city of Utrecht, a role which has existed since 1594. Her harmonious compositions (sometimes renditions of modern tunes by contemporary artists such as David Bowie, Prince and Radiohead) can be heard beautifully ringing through the city’s streets from the tower on Fridays and Saturdays.
- Since 2014, a new archaeological museum (Dom Under) showcases the city’s history and early beginnings. The underground museum is accessed via a stairwell which leads down under Domplein.
For more on the Domtoren, read Issue 56 of Dutch the magazine.
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Original article by: Andrew Herygers