De Heilig-Kruiskapel in Utrecht: Sint-Maarten of Sint-Salvator?
For centuries there has been a small chapel at Dom square in Utrecht, squeezed in between Dom cathedral, consecrated to St Maarten, and the church of St Salvator or Oudmunster: the Heilig- Kruiskapel. In the thirties this chapel was dated to the tenth century by the archaeologist A.E. van Giffen.
However, a few years ago the Utrecht town archaeologist H.L. de Groot expressed the assumption that we are dealing with a church from the end of the seventh century here, notably with the first St Maarten's church rebuilt by the Anglo-Saxon missionary Willibrord on the foundations of an older little church. However, we are of the opinion that, if the Heilig-Kruiskapel does indeed date back to the time of Willibrord, we are not dealing with the first St Maarten's church, but with the church of St Salvator founded by the missionary. Our arguments are the following:
l . There appear to be no archaeological indications that the Heilig-Kruiskapel was rebuilt on the foundations of an older little church, as Willibrord's pupil Boniface - who also worked in Utrecht and even built a church there - wrote in a letter to the pope about the St Maarten's church rebuilt by Willibrord. 2. Later in the Middle Ages the chapel did not belong to St Maarten's or Dom chapter, but to the chapter of St Salvator or Oudmunster. The function of baptistery, given to the chapel by the I4th-century historiographer Jan Beke, proves to have been taken over by Oudmunster later on. 3. Beke makes mention of the building of a new St Salvator church by Boniface next to the church founded by Willibrord. On that occasion the old church must have received the patrocinium of the Holy Cross. 4. The patrocinia of St Salvator and of the Holy Cross are closely related: both refer to Jesus Christ, who died on the cross for the salvation - Salvator means Saviour - of mankind. 5. St Maarten's or Dom chapter has never claimed that the Heilig-Kruiskapel was the first St Maarten's church. 6. Finally, as far as the Heilig-Kruiskapel is concerned, medieval historiography unequivocally refers to the first St Salvator church built by Willibrord and not to the church rebuilt by him and consecrated to St Maarten.
It is striking that for their datings and attributions present as well as earlier archaeologists frequently make use of the written sources or at least of the literature based on them. This literature, however, has proved to be quite unreliable. Before making far-reaching pronouncements on the history and development of the oldest churches of Utrecht, these sources ought to be thoroughly re-analyzed and re-integrated into the study of these church buildings. It is only the study of all church buildings in their three-dimensional, chronological and functional context, placed within the framework of the political and ecclesiastical events of the time in which they arose, that can lead to satisfactory results.