DOMunder in UtrechtUlrike Grafberger, Tuesday, August 12, 2014
If you come to Utrecht, just look up: at 112 metres high, the Dom Tower, the cathedral’s imposing tower, is the tallest church tower in the Netherlands and the city’s major landmark. Wherever you are in Utrecht’s city centre, you’ll always be able to see the Dom Tower.
But have you looked under the Dom yet? And by “under”, I don’t mean the cobbled streets of Domplein, the cathedral square, but even deeper: the world beneath Utrecht. This opens to the public in June 2014. And there’s a lot to discover. Nowhere else in the Netherlands are there quite so many testimonies from so many periods as there are under the Domplein. So I decided to go on a guided tour, entitled "Dom under" (Under the Dom).
But before going beneath the earth’s surface, the tour begins with a film about this historic site. Here on the Domplein in AD 45 stood a Roman fort, the remains of which can still be seen today directly below in the underground cinema.
After the Romans, the Christians built smaller church buildings to begin with on this site, followed later by a mighty house of worship, the nave of which collapsed in 1674 after a devastating storm. The Dom Tower and the remains of the church building are therefore separated today. In between is the cathedral square, under which are hidden not only the ruins of the cathedral, but many other secrets... if you want to find out about them, you should visit DOMunder.
It’s dark under the earth. Only the walkway through the centuries-old stone walls, debris and archaeological finds is illuminated. A "smart pocket torch" creates bright spots. A specific spot is then illuminated and it begins to tell a story about the archaeological finds. And so my journey underground takes me past the huge pillar foundations of the cathedral, between which Roman bricks are piled up. On one of these bricks, I discover dog tracks. Did Roman dogs look just like our four-legged friends today? And there’s more to discover: early mediaeval coins, Roman fibulae, remains of a Roman road and even a perfectly preserved skeleton.
But maybe there are even more secrets hidden here under the earth, under the ruins of the collapsed cathedral? We shall find out. Because while we examine Utrecht’s 2000-year history with our state-of-the-art, interactive flashlight, the archaeologists continue busily digging next to us. The future will reveal everything the past has yet to offer up to us.
DOMunder, Domplein 4, Utrecht, guided tours, Tuesdays to Sundays between 11 am and 4 pm. Journey of discovery takes 75 minutes.