You may think you know the city of Utrecht a little bit better everyday, but there’s a lot you still don’t know (and neither do we). That’s why we want to enlighten you with knowledge of the city you live in – just some random facts you can tell people at a party. We already solved several mysteries of Utrecht, like the meaning of the letters on the street on the Oudegracht , who the famous graffiti gnome is and why we have wharf cellars at the canals. The next one is also something we were very curious about: what’s the deal with that statue of a woman (or is it an angel?) on top of TivoliVredenburg?

Of course you know TivoliVredenburg, one of our favourite places to go for a night out. The building is actually quite recent – it was built in 2011 and opened its doors in 2014. But if the building is that new, what is that ‘old-looking’ statue doing on top of it? Is it a famous woman we’re supposed to recognize? Is it the angel of Utrecht who’s watching over us?

We’ve got answers.

Old town

Indebuurt Utrecht had the same questions and went through archives to solve this mystery. They also thought it was weird that such an old and ancient-looking statue was a part of the new skyline of Utrecht. They found that the statue was coming from an old part of Utrecht, where the Smakkelaarsveld is now located (you know, that place with all the bikes next to Utrecht Centraal).

In ancient times, the place looked a lot different. It was pretty. We know, it’s almost unimaginable. There was a beautiful street called the Leidsestraat with a lot of imposing buildings that looked like the ones in the city center. One building was the central office of the life insurance company of Utrecht – named ‘De Utrecht’. Well, it seems that our angel statue was originally located on top of this building, before it broke down in 1974 to make room for shopping mall Hoog Catharijne. (Why do we always have to take down pretty old buildings?!)

de-utrecht-leidseweg-utrecht-5
De Leidsestraat and insurance building 'De Utrecht'. Image: Het Utrechts Archief

Cross-eyed Virgin

Luckily, there’s one part of de Leidsestraat left and that is the statue of the TivoliVredenburg-woman. Because she was formerly part of ‘De Utrecht’, she’s called the ‘Insurance Angel’ – a woman holding a torch and shield, created by sculptor Henri Scholtz. It seems that, if you look closely, the woman is a bit cross-eyed. That’s why the statue was also called ‘Cross-eyed Virgin’, or ‘Schele Maagd’ in Dutch. Pretty funny.

So, if you’re coming across TivoliVredenburg anytime soon, look up and try to spot the Insurance Angel. Maybe she’s watching over the modern city of Utrecht and all of its citizens. Maybe just over all the students who are dancing all night long in the Ronda.

Marjolein van den Brand