The oldest part of the University Hall, called the Treaty of Utrecht Hall or Auditorium, was completed in 1462. Indeed, it was here that the Treaty of Utrecht was signed in 1579, an event that is generally viewed as marking the origin of the Dutch nation. The statue of Jan van Nassau, standing in front of the University Hall, serves as a reminder of this important occasion.
When Utrecht University was founded in 1636 it was given the Auditorium by the city. The University chose ‘Sol Iustitiae Illustra Nos’ (May the Sun of Righteousness Enlighten Us) as its motto and a sun (Sol) as its symbol. The University motto can be observed on the solar globe in Dom Square and in one of the sculptured reliefs on the University Hall’s facade.
In 1886, the University celebrated its 250th anniversary. On this occasion, the citizenry and the provincial authorities of Utrecht decided to present the University with its own University Hall. The new building would meet the increasing demand for space in which to deliver lectures and hold academic ceremonies.
The University Hall subsequently became the subject of some controversy: some thought it should be built in the Neo-Renaissance style, others that it should reflect the Dom Cathedral’s existing Gothic style. A compromise was reached. This took the form of choosing the Neo-Renaissance style while siting the building a little farther from the Dom Cathedral than was originally planned. The rather odd kink in the facade of the University Hall is a clear reminder of this compromise.
In 2002, Utrecht University decided to renovate the University Hall and restore its original glory. Nowadays the building is used for academic ceremonies such as graduations and PhD defence ceremonies.