Exhibition 'The Happy City' on Saint Martin as patron saint of Utrecht

Part of summer festival to mark Utrecht's 900th anniversary

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Sint-Maarten op een kerktoren in Utrecht © Herre Wynia
Saint Martin on the Dom tower of Utrecht © Herre Wynia

On the occasion of the 900th anniversary of the city of Utrecht, the exhibition 'The Happy City' is on view in the Dom Church from 10 June to 11 August. It focuses on Saint Martin and his role as patron saint of Utrecht in the Middle Ages and today. The exhibition has been put together by interns at Utrecht University under the supervision of Els Rose (Professor of Late and Medieval Latin) and Bart Jaski (curator of manuscripts and early printed books at Utrecht University Library). 

During the summer months, the exhibition frames the festival 'The Miracle of Saint Martin - The Happy City', a two-day festival on 3 and 4 July organised by Utrecht University as a birthday gift to the city of Utrecht.

Medieval and contemporary Saint Martin celebrations

The exhibition focuses on the story of Saint Martin as the patron saint of Utrecht. It tells about his veneration in the Middle Ages and also about contemporary forms of Saint Martin's celebrations. Moreover, visitors are introduced to Bishop Radboud, who in the 10th century wrote down the miracle story of Saint Martin and composed music to accompany it in which he painted a portrait of a felix locus, a happy city, despite turbulent times. Radboud's story of the miraculous power of Saint Martin's relics in troubled times offered hope to the Christian community in Utrecht at a time when the city was plagued by Viking raids and other calamities.

In the exhibition, Radboud's compositions will be highlighted and visitors will learn more about the 12th-century manuscript in which they were written down, which is in the possession of Utrecht University Library. The original manuscript can be seen during the summer months in the Centraal Museum (in the exhibition ‘The Healthy City’). The music will be performed live by the Gregorian Choir Utrecht on 3 and 4 July as part of the festival programme.


The exhibition is accompanied by a book entitled Het wonder van Sint-Maarten. Utrecht, een gelukkige stad, edited by Els Rose. The book, which sheds new light on medieval and contemporary celebrations of Saint Martin, will be available from 4 July in bookshops (€19.95) and via the site of Amsterdam University Press.

Citizenship as a community ideal in the early Middle Ages

Prof. dr. Els Rose. Foto: Ed van Rijswijk
Prof. dr. Els Rose. Foto: Ed van Rijswijk

The exhibition and the other parts of the summer festival are organized in the framework of the NWO Vici project 'Citizenship Discourses in the Early Middle Ages' led by Prof. Els Rose. This project investigates how a citizenship discourse remained in use after the collapse of the Roman Empire to express changing social and cultural identities. In doing so, the researchers go against the common assumption that citizenship as a community ideal did not play a significant role in the early Middle Ages, the period in which Europe consisted of a patchwork of kingdoms. Rose and her research team show that the terminology derived from classical citizenship discourses persisted and underwent a radical change in meaning. In this process, Christianity as the dominant religion played a guiding role.

Start date and time
End date and time
Domkerk, Domplein Utrecht
Entrance fee
The exhibition is freely accessible during the opening hours of the Dom Church
More information