The Dutch city of Utrecht is one of the most important and most historic cities of the Netherlands, featuring a history of over 2000 years and containing numerous unique medieval monuments, both churches as well as many ancient houses.
In Roman times the name of the Utrecht fortress was simply Traiectum denoting its location on the Rhine at a ford. Traiectum became Dutch Trecht. The U comes from Old Dutch “uut” meaning downriver. It was added to distinguish from the other Tricht, Maas-tricht.910 In 11th century official documents it was then Latinized as Ultra Traiectum. Over time the two parts of the name would merge and evolve into the current name “Utrecht”.11 In the second century, the wooden walls were replaced by sturdier tuff stone walls,8 remnants of which are still to be found below the buildings around Dom Square.
From the middle of the 3rd century Germanic tribes regularly invaded the Roman territories. Around 275 the Romans could no longer maintain the northern border and Utrecht was abandoned.8 Little is known about the next period 270-650. Utrecht is first spoken of again in the 7th century when the influence of the growing realms of the Franks led Dagobert I to build a church devoted to Saint Martin within the walls of the Roman fortress.8 In ongoing border conflicts with the Frisians the church was however destroyed.
Utrecht’s ancient city-centre features many buildings and structures from its earliest origins onwards. It has been the religious centre of the Netherlands since the eighth century. Until the golden age, Utrecht was the city of most importance in the northern Netherlands (the present-day country of the Netherlands, excluding Belgium and Luxembourg), until Amsterdam became the cultural and populous centre of the Netherlands.