St. Salvator's Church

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Sint-Salvatorkerk, drawing made around 1615 by Aernout van Buchel

The Sint-Salvator church (also called the Old-Munster church) was one of the five collegiate chapters in the Dutch city of Utrecht. The others were the Dom Church, the St. Peter's Church, the St. John's church and the St. Mary's church. The St. Salvator church was situated on the present-day Dom square right next to the Dom Church. The St. Salvator church was demolished following the Protestant Reformation, as a result of the outlawing of Catholicism in the Dutch Republic in 1587.

The first St. Salvator church[edit]

The first St. Salvator church was established possibly around 695, its presence was definitely established by 724. It was established by Willibrord, after he had received his mission from pope Sergius I. The patron saint of the church, Salvator, is a possible reference to the Basilica of St. John Lateran, the ecclesiastical seat of the Pope and the mother church of the Catholic Church, as this church was at first also dedicated to St. Salvator. The name Salvator means savior and is a direct reference to Jesus the Savior.

During the second world war, the location of the former church was subject to archaeological research. At the site of the former Crossing, on the axis of the church, wall-restants and limestone tombs were found. From the positioning of the remnants it was concluded that the eastern annex of the church had been found. By studying the groundplan of the second church (which included a very broad and extremely short nave and a heavy tower), the dimensions of the connecting hall were deduced. The original St. Salvatorchurch was in design a large single-nave church from ca. 12 by 18 meter, with on the east side a built-on annex, that had a similar rectangular shape of about 9 by 12 meter.

The eastern annex possibly served as a choir, but from the large amount of tombs found within the walls of this part of the building, it was also used as a grave chapel.

The St. Salvator church was located southwest of a second, small church, that was known from the 12th-century on as the Holy-Crosschapel, which was demolished in 1826. This chapel was most likely the original St. Martin's church. Until the 10th century, these two churches formed what is called a double cathedral. Whether the churches did function as a cathedral is not fully clear. From around 750 the St. Martin's church became the primate church, and from then on was known as the St. Martin's Cathedral, the direct predecessor of the later Dom Church.

Restoration and rebuilding in later times[edit]

The St. Salvator church was restored and possibly expanded during the lengthy episcopate of bishop Balderic of Utrecht (918-976). What exactly was done is not clear. A new grave-room might have been added to the eastern side. Balderic most likely paid more attention to the construction of the new Dom Church to replace the old one. Under Balderic's third successor, Ansfried of Utrecht (995-1010), the St. Salvator church was largely rebuilt. The hall was cut into two. On the western half a westwork was erected after the example of the westwork at the Palatine Chapel in Aachen. The eastern half was transformed into a basilic layout by adding aisles. The eastern annex choir was maintained. In this form the St. Salvator church may have acted as the bishopric's palatine church. Similar churches were also built elsewhere from around 1000. They served to represent the bishop and his court.

Bishop Bernold made an end to the status of palatine church. The St. Salvator church was reformed into a chapter church, and the St. Martin's church was upgraded to cathedral status, becoming the seat of the bishop of Utrecht. Bernold and his successor William I adjusted the St. Salvator church to its new function, once more modifying and expanding it. The old eastern annex was taken down and replaced by a transept, whereby the eastern side received a prestigious, very deep, three-sided closed choir. Below this choir was a spacious crypt, that was accessible through side-chapels at the sides of the choir. Its layout corresponded to the other churches Bernold had built. The only difference, the extremely deep choir, seemed to be a reference to the special status of the church as burial place for the first bishops of Utrecht, amongst them Saint Boniface (who had never been bishop of Utrecht but was considered as such in medieval times).

The highaltar was at first dedicated to Christ the Savior. The altar at the northern side-chapel was dedicated to Mary, and the southern chapel to John the Baptist. Together these altars represented the crucifixion and salvation of Christ. The highalter was also dedicated to Boniface, who had died as a martyr in 754 at Dokkum. Below the highaltar, in the crypt, there was an altar dedicated to Saint Stephen, considered the first martyr of Christendom. In front of this altar laid the grave of the early bishop Frederick of Utrecht, who had been murdered in the St. Salvator church in 835, according to legend because of his criticism of empress Judith of Bavaria.

Around this time the St. Salvator church was given its own chapter and immunity from civil law in favor of canon law. This immunity also extended to the houses of the canons and the Holy-Cross chapel, which, as stated above, can be identified as the original St. Martin's church, and was eventually rebuilt as a cathedral by bishop Balderic of Utrecht.

In 1131 and 1253 the St. Salvator church was damaged by fire, but restored in both cases.

The final church[edit]

In its final form, the St. Salvator church was a Tuff-stone basilica with a deep choir, a transept and short nave, and a westwork with two towers. While the 10th-century nave and westwork, and 11th-century choir and transept were Romanesque, the church was later adapted to the Gothic style. Several new structures were also built, such as a school at the southern side of the tower and a library on the southern side of the choir.

A map and construction drawings of the church in its final form were made by Aernout van Buchel. These drawings, which have been preserved, were made either shortly before or after the demolition of the church in 1587-1588. Another source is a description made by the canon Jan Mersman in 1592 of the by then torn down church. Not much remains of the church. Most of its fundament has also been removed. Today one can see the outlines of the choir and part of the transept in the paving of the Domplein, the square in front of the Dom Church.

Bibliography[edit]

R.J. Stöver, De Salvator- of Oudmunsterkerk te Utrecht, Stichtingsmonument van het bisdom Utrecht, (Utrecht, 1997)

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 52°05′25″N 5°07′18″E / 52.09028°N 5.12167°E / 52.09028; 5.12167