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Utrecht History, Netherlands

Utrecht History – The Religious City

Although Utrecht was a Roman settlement of fairly great importance as it constituted the northern border of the Holy Roman Empire, the city and its fortifications were abandoned with the Roman retreat and very little is known about Utrecht until the mid 7th century. This is when English and Irish missionaries came to the territory to convert the Frisians and there was an appointed leader who is considered the first archbishop of Utrecht, Willibrordus. From this moment on Utrecht started establishing its central position in the Netherlands’ religious administrative system and the most notable event in this ascent is the naming of Adriaan Florenszoon Boeyens as pope in 1522. No other non-Italian was named in this function until John Paul II. The highly religious atmosphere in the city became visible through the churches and monasteries that started being built, some of which are still there today and make very important tourist destinations.

Utrecht History – The Inner Harbor

The city soon became a very important trade and commercial centre due to its canal system and the unique way in which the locals worked with it. 1122 is a notable year in Utrecht’s history, as it is when the city gained its rights and independence and started building wharfs that functioned as an inner city harbor system. They used some special cellars as storage rooms and built houses upon them, a unique structure which is still visible today and you can visit some of the old cellars which could be reached directly from the waterfront.

Utrecht History – 20th Century Modernization

In the 16th and 17th century Utrecht went through very hard times, as it had to defend itself, as the rest of the Low Countries, against the Spanish and the French. During this period the city pretty much lost all its defenses and only started gaining some privileges back when the first railway track connecting Utrecht to Amsterdam was built. In 1853 Utrecht got back its archbishop seat and the city became a Catholic centre once more. At the beginning of the 20th century there were massive changes in Utrecht’s history, as there were residential and business areas that were just emerging and they soon changed the town’s appearance. After WWII a massive project of modernization similar to that in Rotterdam started and shopping malls, new neighborhoods, even the area surrounding the central station were built, rebuilt and taken to the newest technological and aesthetic standards.

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