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The rich history of Utrecht's former courthouse


In 1054 the Roman Abbey of Paul, a Benedictine convent, was founded. The gated abbey consisted of several buildings, of which the remnants have survived the test of time, and can be found in the building today. After the reformation the convent was turned into a courthouse.
The current facade of the main building stems from 1838 and was designed by architect Christiaan Kramm. Large expansions and renovations took place in 1911, 1953 and 1965. The monumental staircase stems from the fifties.

The embellishments on the fence (axe with bound branches) are called fasces and were the Roman symbol of jurisdiction, which made it a suitable decoration for the fence of the courthouse. Unfortunately, the faces would later become the symbol of the fascist troops of Mussolini.

In 1854, during construction only a couple of meters from the courthouse, a pot of gold coins was found. The contractor, the city of Utrecht and the worker who was the finder all lay claim on the treasure. The case was taken to court, where the judge decided that half of the treasure belonged to the city, and the other to the worker. The latter decided to donate a quarter to his boss, the contractor, who would otherwise have been left nothing of the prize.

The original plans for the square at the courthouse were to place a scaffold. However, the wealthy inhabitants of the adjacent Hamburgerstraat found this too common a practice to be held so close. Their protest was not in vain - the scaffold was not placed.

Much later, the building was used as a film set for a feature film about the role of resistance hero Wim Eggink during the Second World War, who, during the occupation of The Netherlands, took the lead in 2 missions to free the captured members of the 'Parool' newspaper from the courthouse, unfortunately to no avail.
The filming of the project caused the courthouse to be decorated with nazi flags for some time.

Another famous page in the history of the courthouse were the summary proceedings about Amelisweerd forest. Activists started this because they believed the permission to tear down the forest was granted on wrongful grounds. However, the city believed the summary proceedings were no reason to pause the tearing down of the forest. This resulted in a bizarre situation; the case was still ongoing when a clerk entered the court room to inform the judge and the activists that the forest that caused so much trouble was no longer in existence.

The last years before the renovation into a hotel, the building was home to artists, who held exhibitions for visitors with sensorial handicaps such as the deaf and blind.

Today the former court house is the homebase of the Court Hotel, De Rechtbank and The Utrecht Archives.