1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Utrecht (city)

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UTRECHT, a city of Holland, capital of the province of Utrecht, on the Crooked Rhine, which here divides into the Old Rhine and the Vecht. Pop. (1905) 114,321. It is an important junction station 22 m. by rail S.S.E. of Amsterdam. Tramways connect it with Vreeswyk on the Lek (where are the large locks of the Merwede canal), Amsterdam, and by way of De Bilt with Zeist, and thence with Arnhem. It is a picturesque and interesting old town with more regular streets and shady squares and fewer canals than most Dutch towns. It is an important fortress, forming the principal point d’appui of the line of defensive inundations called the “New Holland Water Line,” in addition to its position as a railway centre. The defences consist of an inner line of works which preserve the place against surprise, and of an outlying chain of detached forts of fairly modern construction, forming roughly two-thirds of a circle of three miles radius. Of these the Works facing the east would in war time cover the assembly of troops destined to operate outside the Water Line, while those of the north and south fronts would be surrounded by inundations and serve chiefly to control the sluices. The line of the ancient ramparts, demolished in 1830, is now only marked by the Singel, or outer canal, which surrounds the oldest part of the city, with pleasant gardens and promenades laid out on the inside. Two canals, the Oude and the Nieuwe Gracht, intersect the town from end to end. On the Oude Gracht the roadway and quay are on different levels, the roadway lying over vaults, which open on the quay wall and are used as cellars and poor dwelling-houses. On the east of the town is the Maliebaan or Mall, consisting of an ancient triple avenue of lime trees, now largely replanted. Utrecht is the seat of a university, and of a Roman Catholic archbishopric. It is also the seat of the archbishop of the Dutch Old Catholics. The Domkerk, dedicated to St Martin, the former cathedral church of the bishops of Utrecht, is a large Gothic building, erected in 1254–1267 on the site of the original church founded by St Willibrord about 720 and completed by Bishop Adelbold about 1015. An open space forming the heart of the square in which the church stands separates the solitary western tower (14th century) from the choir and transept, the nave having been blown down by a violent hurricane in 1674 and never rebuilt. The interior (30 ft. wide and 115 ft. high) has been clumsily fitted up with pews and galleries for Protestant worship, so that the effect of its slender columns is spoilt. It contains the monuments of Admiral van Gent (d. 1672) and of Bishops Guy of Hainaut (d. 1317) and George of Egmont (d. 1559), while in the crypt are preserved the hearts of the German emperors Conrad II. (1039) and Henry V. (1125). The Roman Catholic cathedral of St Catherine dates from 1524 and has been restored in modern times. Other churches of very early foundation in Utrecht are the Pieterskerk and the Janskerk. Attached to the Domkerk by fine old Gothic cloisters is the university, which was founded in 1634 and enlarged in 1894. The students number some 750, and there are five faculties of theology, law, medicine, mathematics and science, and letters. The aula (restored in 1879) was originally the chapter-house of the cathedral. Connected with the university are a valuable library, occupying the palace built for Louis Bonaparte, king of Holland, in 1807 and containing upwards of 200,000 volumes and MSS.; a museum of natural history; an ophthalmic institute; physical and chemical laboratories; a veterinary school; a botanic garden; and an observatory. The archiepiscopal museum (1872) contains examples of all branches of sacred art in the Netherlands. In the Museum Kunstliefde is a small picture-gallery, chiefly remarkable for some pictures by Jan Scorel (1495–1562); the museum of antiquities contains a miscellaneous collection. Other buildings of interest are the museum of industrial art; the so-called “Pope’s house,” built in 1517 by Adrian Floriszoon Boeyens, afterwards Pope Adrian VI., and a native of Utrecht; the royal mint of Holland; the Fleshers’ Hall (1637); the home for the aged, occupying a 14th-century mansion; the town hall (1830); and the large hospital prison and barracks. The most important industrial establishments are cigar manufactories, manufactories of chemicals and earthenware, and brass foundries, and there is also an active trade in the agricultural produce of the surrounding country.

The country round about Utrecht is pretty and plentifully studded with country houses, especially on the road to Arnhem. Close by, on the north-east, is the village of De Bilt, the seat of the Dutch Meteorological Institute. In this parish was formerly situated the famous Benedictine convent of Oostbroek, founded in the beginning of the 12th century. The abbey was demolished in 1850. The manor of Zuilen on the Vecht, four miles north-west of Utrecht, was partly held in fief from this abbey and partly from the bishops of Utrecht. The lords of Zuilen grew very powerful and built a castle here at the end of the 13th century. In 1302 this possession passed by marriage to the influential family of van Borsele, lords of Veere and governors of Zeeland. But on the extinction of that house towards the end of the 15th century the castle passed through various hands until it came by marriage in 1665 to the family of Baron van Tuyll van Serooskerke. The castle was carefully restored in 1752, and is still in excellent preservation. Five miles east of Utrecht is the village of Zeist, the seat of a Moravian settlement established here in 1746. There are also a fine castle (1667) and grounds, a sanatorium for children and numerous modern villa residences. At Ryzenburg, close by, is a Roman Catholic seminary, founded in connexion with the establishment of the Roman Catholic hierarchy in 1853 and practically serving as an archiepiscopal palace.

Utrecht (i.e. Oude Trecht or Old Ford, rendered in Latin documents Vetus Trajectum) is a city of great antiquity and much historic interest, especially as illustrating the growth of civic liberties during the middle ages. The place existed in Roman times and is mentioned in the itinerary of Antoninus. Though the name Trecht or Trajectum is almost universally found in old documents and on coins, the town was known by another name among the Frisians and Franks. Bede, writing in the 8th century, speaks of Wiltaburg, id est oppidum Willtorum, lingua autem Gallica Trajectum vocatur. That any such people as the Wilten existed there is little evidence, but Wiltaburg (or variants of it) occurs in chronicles as late as the 12th century, and it is still preserved in the name Wildenburg, given to a Roman camp near the city.

The earliest authentic record of the town is that of the building of a chapel—afterwards destroyed by the heathen Frisians—by Dagobert I., king of the Franks, in 636; but the importance of the place began when St Willibrord (q.v.), the apostle of the Frisians, established his see there. This fact determined the development of the city. The bishop's seat had to be fortified against the incursions of the heathen Frisians and Northmen, and the security thus afforded attracted population till, after the destruction of its rival Dorestad by the Normans in the 9th century, Utrecht became the chief commercial centre of the northern Netherlands. Bishop Balderic (A.D. 918–976) was the real founder of the prosperity of the town. On his accession to the see Utrecht had just been sacked by the Northmen. He succeeded in driving the raiders away, rebuilt the walls, and during the fifty-eight years of his episcopate the town grew and prospered. Its gradual acquisition of civic rights followed the same line of development as in the German episcopal cities. At first the bishop, holding immediately of the Empire, was supreme. In feudal subordination to him a royal count, who was also Vogt (advocatus) of the cathedral church of St Martin, had his seat at Utrecht as the chief town of the Gouw (Gau, pagus) of Ifterlake. In the 11th century a burgrave (châtelain, castellanus), who was an episcopal officer, is found exercising jurisdiction in the city as well as the Vogt. Bishop Godebald (1122–1127) granted to the inhabitants of Utrecht and of Muiden, the neighbouring port on the Zuider Zee, their first privileges, which were confirmed on the 22nd of June I 122 by the emperor Henry V., who died at Utrecht in 1125. The extant imperial charter does not specify what were the municipal rights that were conceded, but it is certain that at this time they were very limited. The magistrates, the Schout or high bailiff and his assessors, the Schepenen (scabini, échevins), were nominated by the burgrave from the order of knights. In 1196 we read for the first time of councillors (consules, consiliarii, adjurati) as assessors of the magistrates, but these, who a little later were known as the Raad or council, were also nominated. The position was simplified when, in 1220, Albert van Cuyck, the last of the hereditary burgraves, sold his rights to the bishop. These ecclesiastical princes were churchmen in little but name, and their desire to be absolute rulers found itself confronted by the determination of the burghers to secure greater independence. As the 13th century advanced, the council, representing the wealthy and powerful gild of merchants, began to take a larger share in the government, and to restrict more and more the direct exercise of the episcopal authority. Of the rise of the craft gilds in Utrecht there is no record. They appear suddenly as fully developed organized corporations, able to impose their will upon bishop and aristocracy. All through the 13th century a continual struggle went on, but at last the gilds were victorious and were able to secure in the Gildebrief of 1304, confirmed by the bishop in 1305, a new constitution for the city. According to this, as emended by a later Gildebrief of 1347, the existing board of seven Schepenen were to retain office forilife, but the new ones, elected yearly, were in future to be chosen by the Raad either in or outside the gilds. The Raad itself was to be chosen by the aldermen of the gilds. Two aldermen, later styled burgomasters, were to preside, the one over the Schepenen, the other over the Raad, sharing this presidency with two episcopal officials. The Schout was still to be nominated by the bishop from among the knights, but his powers were now comparatively insignificant. The two chief aldermen of the gilds, with the two episcopal official presidents above mentioned, together were to form the supreme government of the city. The victory of the democratic principle was entirely new in the Netherlands, though it had been anticipated in Florence, and was perhaps inspired by Italian example. In all other cities of the Netherlands the craft gilds remained in humble subjection to a council co-o ted from a limited number of wealthy patrician families. In Utreclit, however, power was henceforth concentrated in the gilds, which became not only trade but political associations, which together constituted the sovereign community. In this government, though the Schepenen retained a dignified precedence, all power was practically concentrated in the popularly elected Raad, even the estates of the see (Sticht) had “nothing to say in the city.”

The new liberties, as might be expected, did not tend to improve the relations between the town of Utrecht and its ecclesiastical sovereign; and the feud reached its climax (1481-84) in the “groote vorlag,” or great quarrel, between the citizens and Bishop David, the Bastard of Burgundy, who had been foisted upon the unwilling chapter by the combined pressure of Duke Philip of Burgundy, his half-brother, and the pope. With the aid of John, burgrave of Montfoort, who had been called in, after the manner of the Italian podestas, and endowed with supreme power for the defence of the town, the Utrechters defeated all the efforts of their bishop, aided by the Hollanders and an aristocratic faction. They only succumbed when the weight of the archduke Maximilian was thrown into the scale against them (1484). Even then Bishop David was once more expelled in 1491. The last prince-bishop of Utrecht was Henry of Bavaria, who was elected, in May 1524, in succession to Philip of Burgundy. He took the part of the nobles against the burghers, but Duke Charles of Gelderland, jealous of the growing power of the house of Habsburg, intervened, put an end to the strife, and, in 1527, himself occupied the city. In July of the next year Bishop Henry was back again, having gained possession of the city by surprise; and in the following October he sold his temporal rights to the emperor Charles V. Utrecht, thus brought into immediate relations with the Spanish Habsburgs, proved no more tolerant of their rule than of that of its bishops, and took a leading part in the revolt of the Netherlands. The union of the seven northern provinces, proclaimed at Utrecht in 1579, laid the foundation of Dutch independence (see Netherlands). The city proved indeed a refractory member of the new league; and, after the death of William the Silent, the Utrechters, jealous of the influence of their old enemies the Hollanders, refused to recognize the authority of the council of state, and elected a stadtholder of their own. Inside the city the old aristocratic and democratic factions still carried on their traditional struggle, complicated now by religious difficulties. The Roman Catholics, though still in the majority in the bishopric, had little influence on the politics of the city, where the aristocrats inclined to the moderate (libertine) opinions advocated by the preacher Hubrecht Duifhuis, while the democrats were organized in the new church order introduced by the uncompromising Calvinist Petrus Dathenus (d. 1581). The adhesion of Utrecht to the party of revolt was the work of the aristocratic party, and the critical state of affairs made it for a while dominant in the town. The gilds and burgher militia were deprived of all voice in the government, and the town council became an hereditary body. After the advent of the earl of Leicester as governor-general of the Netherlands in 1585, a change took place. The ultra-Calvinistic Adolph, count of Nuenar, who was elected stadtholder, overthrew the aristocratic government and placed the people in power. The Utrechters, under the leadership of Gerard Prouninek, otherwise Deventer, vehemently took the side of Leicester in his quarrel with the estates of Holland, and the English governor-general made the town his headquarters during residence in the Netherlands, and took it under English protection. Though heartily disliked in Holland, Leicester made himself so popular in Utrecht that the burgher guard even presented him with a petition that he would assume the sovereignty. The withdrawal of Leicester from the Netherlands was followed by the defeat of Deventer and the return of the aristocratic party to power. The issue was decided (October 5, 1558) when the democrats were defeated in battle. Deventer was imprisoned and banished, and the former Schout, Nicolas van Zuylen van Sevender, was restored to office. An attempt of the democratic party to regain power was temporarily successful (January 10, 1610); but the estates appealed to the States General and Maurice of Nassau, who had been appointed stadtholder on the death of Nuenar, put down the movement with a strong hand, and the Utrechters found themselves compelled to yield. From this time, until the French Revolution, the ancient democratic institutions of the city remained nothing but a name.; the rights of the community were exercised by a municipal aristocracy, who held all power in their own hands. The gilds, once supreme, henceforth ceased to have any political importance. At Utrecht the treaty which closed the War of the Spanish Succession was signed on the 11th of April 1713.  (G. E.) 

Authorities.—Pieter Bondam, Charterboek der Hertogen van Gelderland, &c., orig. documents with notes (1783); Codex diplomaticus Neerlandicus, tome i. (Utrecht, 1848)—the documents of the first part concern the trade of Utrecht; De Geer van Oudegain, Het oude Trecht (1875); W. Junghans, “Utrecht im Mittelalter” (in Forschungen zur deutsch. Gesch. ix. 513–526); Laurent P. C. van Bergh, Handboek der Middel Nederlandsche Geographie (Leiden, 1852); Karl Hegel, Städte der Germanischen Völker im Mitlelalter (Leipzig, 1891), vol. ii. pp. 291–300. Other works are cited in the bibliography to the article on the see and province of Utrecht, above.