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“Religious-Inspired Art” 4 of 5 stars
Review of St. Catherine's Convent (Museum Het Catharijneconvent)

St. Catherine's Convent (Museum Het Catharijneconvent)
Nieuwegracht 63, Utrecht, The Netherlands (Lange Nieuwstraat)
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Ranked #9 of 67 things to do in Utrecht
Certificate of Excellence 2014
Attraction details
Calgary, Alberta, Canada
14 reviews 14 reviews
8 attraction reviews
Reviews in 11 cities Reviews in 11 cities
21 helpful votes 21 helpful votes
“Religious-Inspired Art”
4 of 5 stars Reviewed August 6, 2013

Next to the Dom and Rietveld Huis, the Catharijneconvent is Utrecht's premier attraction. The site has an adjacent Church worth a glance, but the former convent - now a museum - is why visitors come in droves.

And it's not for the architecture, but for the religious art assembled inside. Quite simply, it's hard to imagine a better display of Christian art anywhere.

There's too much to absorb in a single visit. If you only have a couple of hours, accept what I did: you have to focus. Is your main delight pre-12th century? Do you like the Renaissance? Or are you a diletant who wanders the aisle and stops when a piece strikes your fancy? The older the better is my usual starting point, but some triptychs just halted me in my tracks. And the succession of related pieces slowed me to a crawl as I took in the similarities and differences wrought by time.

The descriptions are only in Dutch. I've wavered in my approach to this. Part of me wanted more English, but Dutch really isn't impossible to understand with patience and some German in your quiver. The trouble is that there's too much art to linger over language. Fortunately, the museum provides a free English guidebook to the core works in its collection. Many objects that caught my eye weren't included, but enough were to make my visit memorable. And there simply wasn't time for more. The lesson was not to be greedy, to accept the limits imposed by fatigue, and recognize that this art takes a lifetime to assimilate. I was content with the guidebook.

You can trace the history of religion in the Netherlands if you want, dwell on the Catholic items, or study the changes that occurred when Luther's influence prevailed.

There are modern items in the collection; this isn't entirely old stuff.

Most importantly, you learn that not all crucifixes are the same, that artists made important choices about what they enfigured and how. You start to see religious images as sculpture, not just symbol.

I was mesmerized.

Getting there? It's a five minute walk south of the Dom. If you've walked more than five minutes, check your map again.

Special exhibitions? I saw the Russian Icons from Moscow. This was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. Someone with a clever brain mounts these. If you read the booklet quickly before you enter, your enjoyment will skyrocket. I learned more in five minutes than across many years. And there's no extra charge for the special exhibits. No need to eat or drink at the attached cafe; but if you're tired, it offers a welcome respite to the feet.

The objects are displayed in clear light, though the rooms themselves are dim. I had no trouble navigating, however, and there's an elevator for those who wish or need it.

On the whole, it's tough to find fault with this museum. I wish I could read Dutch better, but that's the point of travel isn't it? To enlarge yourself?

Visited July 2013
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57 reviews from our community

Visitor rating
Date | Rating
  • Dutch first
  • English first
  • French first
  • German first
  • Italian first
  • Portuguese first
  • Russian first
  • Spanish first
  • Any
English first
Utrecht, The Netherlands
Senior Contributor
36 reviews 36 reviews
14 attraction reviews
Reviews in 12 cities Reviews in 12 cities
35 helpful votes 35 helpful votes
“Most beautiful Christian Art museum in The Netherlands”
5 of 5 stars Reviewed July 29, 2013

I love the Catharijneconvent Museum, which is great in every way: beautiful location (based in a medieval convent), excellent collection (with objects dating from the eight century until today) and good exhibitions (be sure to check the site). Definate downside is that none of the signs for the main collection are in English. This is mostly due to the fact that Utrecht is not yet very touristic and thus not too many non-Dutch speaking people visit the museum. I'm not sure if they provide English information upon request, be sure to e-mail the museum about that before your visit. Signs and texts for exhibitions are usually provided in both Dutch and English, or handouts will be available with translated texts. Enjoy!

Visited February 2013
Was this review helpful? Yes 1
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Utrecht, The Netherlands
4 reviews 4 reviews
3 attraction reviews
Reviews in 2 cities Reviews in 2 cities
1 helpful vote 1 helpful vote
“Step back in time”
5 of 5 stars Reviewed July 29, 2013

Museum 'het Catharijneconvent' is a wonderfull building to start with. A medieval convent in the heart of the city. Thick walls and a mysterious atmosfere.
The collection is something special as well. It ranges from ancient paintings to contemporary clothing.
The museum is a step back in time with links to the present and a very soothing influence on everyday life.

Visited May 2013
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Toronto, Canada
Top Contributor
443 reviews 443 reviews
174 attraction reviews
Reviews in 61 cities Reviews in 61 cities
335 helpful votes 335 helpful votes
“Unexpectedly interesting”
4 of 5 stars Reviewed March 19, 2013

We didn't know quite what to expect, given that this museum has religion as its focus. The collections are well displayed, however, and especially the medieval section is quite fascinating. The building that the museum is housed in, formerly a convent, is also very attractive. I prefer the Central Museum, but enjoyed visiting this one for a change.

Visited July 2012
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Cambridge, United Kingdom
Senior Contributor
39 reviews 39 reviews
22 attraction reviews
Reviews in 16 cities Reviews in 16 cities
32 helpful votes 32 helpful votes
“Lovely building with peaceful cloisters”
4 of 5 stars Reviewed March 15, 2013

I'm not a great fan of religious treasure, but whay they have here is truly magnificent. You get a free audio description in your own language, which helps to bring the place to life. Locals seem to use the restarant for lunch, which is very jolly

Visited March 2013
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