1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Utrecht (province)

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Utrecht, the smallest province of Holland, bounded S. by Gelderland and South Holland, W. by South Holland, N. by North Holland and the Zuider Zee and E. by Gelderland. It has an area of 534 sq. m, and a pop. (1905) of 276,543. It belongs chiefly to the basin of the Rhine; the Lower Rhine, which skirts its southern border, after sending off the Crooked Rhine at Wijk, becomes the Lek, and the Crooked Rhine in its turn, after sending off the Vecht at Utrecht to the Zuider Zee, becomes the Old Rhine. The north-eastern portion of the province is drained by the Eem, which falls into the Zuider Zee. The watershed between the Rhine and the Eem is formed by a plateau of sand and gravel hills which extend from the south-east corner on the Rhine to Zeist near Utrecht, and also northwards to Huizen on the Zuider Zee. On its western side the plateau declines into the clay lands (and in the north-west low fen) which characterize the western half of the province. The region of sand and gravel is covered with bare heaths and patches of woods, and the occupations of the scanty population are chiefly those of buckwheat cultivation and peat-digging, as in Drente. Amersfoort is here the only town of any size, but along the western edge of this tract there is a row of thriving villages, namely, Amerongen, Leersum, Doorn, Driebergen and Zeist. Bunschoten on the Zuider Zee is a fishing village; Venendaal, on the south-eastern border, originally a fen-colony, is now a market for the bee-keeping industry in the east. On account of the picturesqueness of this part of the province, many country houses and villa residences are found scattered about it. The western half of the province is flat and often below sea-level. Cattle-rearing and the making of cheese (of the Gouda description) and butter are here the chief occupations. Agriculture is practised along the Crooked Rhine, wheat, barley, beans and peas being the chief products, and there is considerable fruit-farming in the south-west. The development of towns, however, has here been restricted by the rise of Utrecht, the chief town of the province, as a commercial centre. A number of small old towns are found along the Rhine, the Lek and the Holland Ysel, such as Rhenen (or Reenen), Wyk-by-Duurstede, Yselstein, Montfoort. Rhenen was once the seat of an independent lordship, though afterwards joined to the bishopric of Utrecht. The ancient church has a fine tower (1492–1531). Wyk-by-Duurstede, originally a Roman settlement, was of some commercial importance as early as the 7th and 8th centuries, but decayed owing to Norman raids in the 10th century. The ruined castle of the bishops of Utrecht still remains. The lordship of Yselstein can be traced back to the younger brother of Gysbrecht IV. of Amstel, who bought lands and built a castle here before 1279. In the beginning of the next century it had grown to the size of a small town and was granted civic rights and surrounded with walls, and in the course of the following centuries was frequently attacked and even devastated. About 1377 Ystelstein descended to the house of Egmont, and in 1551 to the house of Orange, and by paying an annual contribution to the United Provinces remained an independent barony till 1795. The remains of the castle are picturesque. Montfoort owes its origin to a castle built by the bishop of Rhenen in 1170, which was frequently besieged in the 14th and 15th centuries. In 1833 it was bought by the government, and now serves as a reformatory for women. Vreeland on the Vecht has a similar origin in the castle built by Bishop Hendrik of Vianen in 1253–59 as a protection to the province against the lords of Amstel. The castle was demolished in 1529 when the province came under Burgundian rule. The province is traversed by the main railway lines, which all converge at Utrecht, and is also amply provided with navigable waterways.

The province represents the bulk of the territories once comprised in the ancient prince-bishopric of the same name, het Sticht (the see) of Dutch historians. The see was founded in 722 by St Willibrord, and the diocese thus formed, saving for a short time when it was an archbishopric, was subordinate to the see of Cologne. It covered all the northern Netherlands between the Scheldt and the Ems. The bishops, in fact, as the result of grants of immunities by a succession of German kings, and notably by the Saxon and Franconian emperors, gradually became the temporal rulers of a dominion as great as the neighbouring counties and duchies. Bishop Balderic (918–76) successfully defended the see against the Northmen, and received from the emperor Otto I. the right to coin money and all the land between the Leck and the Zuider Zee. The bishopric was weak, however, as compared with the neighbouring states, Holland, Gelderland and Brabant, from the mere fact of its ecclesiastical character. The bishop had no hereditary or dynastic interest in his land, and, as a temporal ruler, his powers were limited by the necessity of having to secure the goodwill of the higher clergy, of the nobles and of the cities, and also because of his relations to the German king and the pope as an ecclesiastical prince of the empire. The middle ages were marked by constant wars between the bishops of Utrecht and the counts of Holland and Gelderland. The growth of the power of Holland, however, under a succession of strong and capable rulers led to the bishopric becoming, during the 14th century, almost a dependency of the county. The death of every bishop was always the signal for violent disputes among the neighbouring feudal states, each of them intriguing to secure the election of its own candidate; but, as stated above, Brabant and Gelderland had at last to recognize the fact of the supremacy of Holland over the see. In the 15th century this supremacy passed to the dukes of Burgundy, and finally, in 1527, Bishop Henry of Bavaria sold his temporal rights to the emperor Charles V. In 1559 the see of Utrecht was by Pope Paul IV. raised to the dignity of an archbishopric. At the time of the revolt against Spain Utrecht took the Protestant side, and was one of the seven provinces which signed the Union of Utrecht in 1579. Each of these provinces retained in a large measure its sovereign rights and its own laws, privileges and customs. During the republican period the estates of Utrecht consisted of three “members.” The chapter of the see was secularized, and out of the members of the five colleges a certain number, known as “the Elected” (Geéligerden), were chosen by the other two “members” of the estates. They held office for life, and were reckoned as the “first member” of the estates. The knights formed the “second member,” the representatives being chosen by co-option. The city of Utrecht, with the four smaller towns of Amersfoort, Rheenen, Wijk-by-Duurstede and Montfoort, made up the “third member.”  (G. E.) 

The later history of the see of Utrecht is of considerable ecclesiastical interest. The last archbishop of Utrecht, Frederick van Schenk van Toutenburg, died in 1580, a few months before the suppression of Roman Catholic public worship by William of Orange. Two successors were nominated by Spain, both of whom were unable from political causes to take possession of the see. In 1583 the chapter elected Sasbold Vosmeer, Catholic priest at the Hague, vicar-general; the election was confirmed in 1590 by the papal nuncio at Brussels, and in 1602 Vosmeer was consecrated at Rome archbishop of Philippi in partibus. After Vosmeer's death (1612) Philip Rovenius van Ardensul was elected by the chapter and confirmed by the pope. In 1631 he formed the surviving members of the chapters of Utrecht and Haarlem into a collegiate body which became known as the chapter of Utrecht. Rovenius was succeeded as vicar-general in 1651 by Jacob de la Torre, consecrated as archbishop of Ephesus. Under his vicariate trouble with Rome began, the pope insisting on his right as universal bishop to appoint the vicar-general's coadjutor and successor. It was not, however, until the vicariate of Peter Codde, consecrated vicar-general with the title of bishop of Sebaste in partibus in 1669, that the quarrel came to a head. Codde was the nominee of the Dutch secular clergy, and these had for years past been at violent odds with the Jesuits, the champions of the ultramontane principle. The publication of an anonymous pamphlet in 1697, entitled “A Short Memoir on the State and Progress of Jansenism in Holland” (Kort gendenkschrift van den staat en voortgang van het Jansenisme in Holland), gave the latter their opportunity. Codde was accused of being its author, and though he successfully refuted this charge, he was ultimately deposed for Jansenism (1702), his opponent, Theodor de Kock, being appointed in his place. The result was a schism which was only temporarily checked by the expulsion of de Kock from the country by the states-general. Codde himself died in 1710. The Church of Utrecht was now without a bishop, and it was believed at Rome that the movement of revolt would soon perish for want of priests, especially as, with the constant influx of regulars, the number of Codde's adherents had steadily decreased. As a result of the publication of the bull Unigenitus by Pope Clement VII. in 1713, however, many French Jansenist priests took refuge in Holland, and so kept the church alive. In 1723 the chapter of Utrecht, in order to preserve the canonical succession of the Dutch clergy, elected Cornelius Steenoven archbishop. He was consecrated (15th October 1724) by Dominique Varlet, bishop of Babylon in partibus, who, having been deposed by the pope for Jansenism, had settled in Amsterdam in 1720. The pope replied to this by excommunicating all those who had taken part in the election and consecration. Undeterred by this, the chapter, on the death of Steenoven, elected as archbishop Cornelis Jan Burchman, who was consecrated by the bishop of Babylon on the 30th of September 1725. From this time onward the Jansenist Church of Holland has continued as an independent body, accepting the authority of the general councils, up to and including that of Trent, but basing itself on the Gallican theory of Episcopacy (q.v.) and rejecting the Vatican council, the infallibility of the pope and the papal dogma of the Immaculate Conception. Under Archbishop Peter Jan Meindaerts (d. 1767) two suffragan sees were created, that of Haarlem in 1742, that of Deventer in 1757. The Church had shrunk considerably since the 18th century, but in the first decade of the 20th showed signs of revival as a point d’appui for Catholics restive under the yoke of the ultramontanism dominant in the Roman Church. With the Church of Utrecht the Old Catholic movement in Germany at first established close relations, the first German Old Catholic bishop, Dr Reinkens, being consecrated by H. Heykamp, bishop of Deventer, in 1873. The Jansenist Church is, however, intensely conservative, and viewed with extreme disapproval the departures made by the German Old Catholics from Catholic tradition, notably in the matter of clerical celibacy. l It refused, moreover, to recognize the validity of Anglican orders, and consequently to follow the example of the other Old Catholics in establishing inter communion with the Church of England. This attitude towards the English Church was accentuated by the consecration, on the 28th of April 1908, of Mr Arnold Harris Mathew[1] as bishop of the Old Catholics in England by Dr Gerard Gul, Jansenist archbishop of Utrecht. The singular offshoot of the Church of Utrecht thus created established its headquarters in a former Congregational chapel (dedicated significantly to the Englishman St Willibrord, the first bishop of Utrecht) in River Street, London, N., the minister of which had joined the movement with his congregation, In 1910 Bishop Mathew claimed that his community numbered between 500 and 600, with ten priests, and that he had had many inquiries from both Roman Catholic priests, discontented with the Vatican policy, and Anglican clergy, uneasy about the validity of their orders (see an “interview” in the Daily Graphic, September 4, 1910). Meanwhile, in Holland itself the Roman Catholic hierarchy had been restored by Pope Pius IX. in 1851, with Utrecht as the archiepiscopal see.  (W. A. P.) 

Authorities.—K. Burmen, Utrechtsche Jaarboeken, &c ., annals and documents (3 vols., 1750); A. Buchelius, De Episcopis Ultrajectensibus, containing the chronicles of J. de Beka and G. Heda (Utrecht, 1643); J. van d. Water, Groot Placaetboek der Stadt Utrecht (3 vols., Utrecht, 1729); J. J. de Geer, Bijdragen tot de Geschied. en Oudheiden der Provincie Utrecht (Utrecht, 1861); T. van Riemsdijk, Geschted. van de Kerspelkerk van St Jacob te Utrecht (Leiden, 1882); S. Muller, Openbare verzamelingen der Gemeente Utrecht (Utrecht, 1881); V. T. Blondeel, Beschrijving der Stad Utrecht, de opvolging der Bischoppen (Utrecht, 1757); S.. Muller, Rechtsbronnen der Stad Utrecht (2 vols., Utrecht, 1883); R. Fruin, Geschied. der Staats-Instellingen in Nederland (the Hague, 1901). For the Old Catholic Church see the article “Jansenistenkirche,” by Dr J. A. Gerth van Wijk, in Herzog-Hauck, Realencyklopädie (3rd ed., Leipzig, 1900), pp. 599–606, where further references are given.

  1. Bishop Mathew (b. 1855) about the year 1892 claimed and for a while assumed the title of earl of Llandaff (sic), as grandson of Arnold Nesbit Mathew (d. 1820), who was said to have been the eldest son of the first earl of Llandaff, though neither he nor his eldest son ever claimed the title (see G. E. C(okayne)); Complete Peerage; corrigenda to vol. v. in vol. viii. p. 450).