Dom Church


The Dom Church will be the location of the opening ceremony of the conference.

With its 112.32 meters, the Dom Church, or to be more exact the Dom Tower, is not only the major landmark of the city of Utrecht, but also the tallest church tower in the Netherlands. The building of the main nave of the Dom Church started in 1281, the building of the tower took over 60 years, from 1321 until its completion in 1382.

The Dom Church and its tower are located at the site of a former Roman fortress (castellum), called Traiectum (i.e. a location were a river can be crossed), along the northern frontier (limes) of the former Roman Empire. The first church built on this site was a small church dedicated to Saint-Martin, the patron saint of Utrecht, built by the Frankish king Dagobert in the 7th century. This church was also the base of the famous missionaries Saint-Willibrord and Saint-Boniface who sought to convert the Frisians in the northern part of the Netherlands in the 8th century. Allegedly, at the orders of Saint-Willibrord two additional churches were built within the area of the former castellum: the Church of Saint-Salvator and the Chapel of the Holy Cross. Both churches were destroyed by Viking invaders in the 9th century, and it took until 922 AD before a new and larger cathedral could be built. The current cathedral actually is the third consecutive cathedral on this location, after previous cathedrals were heavily damaged in the city fires of respectively 1016 and 1253, after which it was decided to build a new cathedral at the same location; until 1889 (in which year the new Cathedral of Saint-Bavo at Haarlem was completed) the Dom Church would remain the only cathedral in the Northern Netherlands that was originally built as a cathedral.

The construction of the entire church building took over two-and-a-half century; the use of less sustainable construction methods in the first quarter of the 16th century (caused by lack of money)in the end turned out to be disastrous: on the first of August 1674 a tornado struck Utrecht, damaging many buildings and tearing down the walls of the middle part of the nave of the Dom Church. In the course of the second half of the eighteenth century, the ruins on the location were removed, creating the open space we now know as Dom Square.

The Dom Church throughout times has always retained its ecclesiastical function. After the Reformation, the Church became officially Protestant from 1581 onward, only to be interrupted in 1672-1673 as Catholic French soldiers occupied Utrecht and temporarily reinstated Catholic services in the Dom Church.

Utrecht University, founded in 1636, has always had a close relationship with the Dom Church. The choir part of the church, which was not used for ecclesiastical services, became the location for promotion ceremonies and other official academic events; professor Voetius, one of the most prominent theologians of his time, was at the same time professor of theology at Utrecht University as well as preacher of the Dom Church between 1637 and 1676. The current building of Utrecht University Hall (Academiegebouw) also incorporates old parts of the former Dom Church complex, such as the Auditorium (Aula). Nowadays, the Dom Church still is the location of most of Utrecht University’s official academic events, such as the annual celebration of the ‘birthday’ of Utrecht University (Dies) and the opening of each academic year; as such, it will also be the venue for the opening ceremony of the XVI Biennial IASC-Conference.