Previous Dies celebrations

Every year on 26 March, Utrecht University celebrates the Dies Natalis; the anniversary of the university. This archive provides an overview of the activities during the Dies Natalis in previous years.

Dies Natalis from 1636

Utrecht University was founded on 26 March 1636. Ever since then, the university celebrates the Dies Natalis every year. Information on some of these Dies Natales has been preserved, some of which is shown below.

1736: 100 years of Utrecht University

The centennial anniversary of Utrecht University was celebrated with a grand masquerade – a costumed parade with a theme. The masquerade of 1736, with Bacchus as its theme, was organised by students and was an event for all residents of the city. 

For the occasion of the centennial anniversary, a medallion was minted bearing the following inscription (in Dutch): 'De zaal der vrijheid is de tempel der wijsheid; nadat de monsters bedwongen waren, zijn de kunsten herwonnen'. It has been a tradition to mint medallions at lustra ever since. By now, this has grown into a beautiful collection.

1906: Chariot races in Roman arena

Dies Natalis 1906
Photo originating from J. Huibers in Utrecht and the publication 'Lustrum 1906 Utrecht' by Uitgeverij Verloren in Hilversum.

From June 26 to 29, 1906, the 54th lustrum anniversary was celebrated with a masquerade (a costumed parade through the city), chariot races and games. For the spectacular chariot races, a complete arena was built on the outskirts of the city based on Roman models.

1948: Royal visit from former First Lady

Dies Natalis 1948
Princess Juliana and Prince Bernhard. Source: University Museum.

Four honorary doctorates were awarded in 1946. One was awarded to the former First Lady of the United States: Eleanor Roosevelt. Due to her busy existence, the award ceremony could only take place in 1948 and only on April 20 and not on March 26, the Dies of Utrecht University.

"...You are receiving this honorary doctorate, Doctor honoris causa, mainly because you are a woman." These were Rector Magnificus Professor Bijlsma's closing words at the honorary doctorate ceremony. Princess Juliana and Prince Bernhard were visiting the ceremony. See also the article in DUB: An honorary doctorate for a perfect mother of five children and the article from Oud Utrecht: Gratitude for liberation with honorary doctorate for Eleanor Roosevelt.

1951: An elephant in Utrecht

Dies Natalis 1951
The Dies Parade of 1951. Source: University Museum.

For a long time, students organised the lustrum celebrations. The Utrechtsch Studenten Corps organised a masquerade and a lustrum game about Genghis Khan. Members of other student societies participated as well. An elephant walked along in the parade.

1956: Dies is being organised by the University Senate

For lustra, the Utrechtsch Studenten Corps was commissioned by the University Senate to organise all kinds of festivities, including a festive parade through the city. Since 1945, members of other student societies could participate in this as well. After friction came about among the student societies in 1951, the university decided to more strongly disconnect the Dies Natalis and the lustrum celebration.

In 1956, the celebration of the Dies Natalis was moved to April after all because of the Dutch vastentijd. The organisation was now assigned to a commission of the University Senate. The solemn celebration had a mixed reception in the press. The Dutch newspaper NRC spoke of a 'professors' lustrum' and 'something sterile'.

1983: Celebration in the Jacobi Church

Jacobikerk te Utrecht ©

On 18 March 1983, the 347th anniversary of Utrecht University was celebrated in the Jacobi Church.

The Dies Natalis was moved because the Dom Church was undergoing restoration at the time. The theme of the day was Global Ecology Problems. Four honorary doctorates were presented. The title of the Anniversary Speech was: 'Morrelen aan de wereld'.

2005: Symposium René Descartes

Dies Natalis 2005

The Dies speech, "A Miraculous Method - For and Against Descartes in the Seventeenth Century," was delivered by Prof. Dr. Theo Verbeek, professor of the History of Newer Philosophy at the Philosophy sub-faculty. Prior to the Dies Natalis, a symposium on René Descartes (1596-1650) was held on March 22 and 23, intended as a tribute. Descartes resided in Utrecht around the time the Utrecht University was founded. His innovative teachings were first taught at the university, but after his death, they were discredited by traditional administrators led by the theologian Voetius.