‘From Monastery via Military Hospital to grand hotel Karel V’
Set back from the bustle of city life. The Dom keeps watch, the wall protects. The gentle hubbub of the street ebbs away in the distance. How many footsteps have fallen here? Grand Hotel Karel V has a rich history. Walk through the impressive cloister, dine where the knights once ate in silence, meet in the old granary, sign an important contract in the strongroom tower, hold a barbecue in the Officers’ Garden or a presentation in the monks’ former dormitory… history is palpable everywhere here.
The hotel is named after Emperor Charles V, one of the prominent guests, who stayed here with his sister Maria of Hungary. In 1543 they attended the gathering of the Order of the Golden Fleece, which held its chapter meeting in the ‘Balije van Utrecht’, as the monastery was originally known. It was at the peak of his glory: Charles V ruled over Europe’s largest ever empire. His motto was ‘Plus Oultre’ or ‘Ever Onwards’. Charles V had boundless ambition and wanted ‘the sun never to set’ on his empire.
The ‘Duitse’ House
Over 450 years ago, in 1348, the Teutonic Knightly Order commissioned the building of this monastery. The ‘Balije van Utrecht’ soon came to be known popularly as the ‘Duitse’ House. It was occupied by knights and priests who had taken vows of poverty, chastity and obedience. The ‘Duitse’ House was the point of departure for crusaders leaving for the East to bring faith to the ‘heathens’. The monastery had advanced facilities for the time, so also became a place to receive guests of high standing, kings and noblemen. In 1713, for example, the House provided accommodation for the Spanish envoy, the Count of Ossasuna and his retinue, during the negotiations for the Treaty of Utrecht.
In 1807 King Louis Napoleon purchased the ‘Duitse’ House from the Teutonic Knightly Order for 50,000 florins. He wanted to establish a military hospital here. It was not until 1823 that this was ultimately achieved, after the French occupation by King William I of Orange. The complex served as a military hospital up to 1990. The poorly maintained property was the occupied by squatters for a number of years.
Renovation as a national monument
In 1992 work began on a thorough renovation of the complex, which had since been declared a national monument. Remains were found of fireplace bearing Charles V’s coat of arms: the double-headed eagle hewn in sandstone. This can now be admired in the Grand Restaurant.
During the restoration work the greatest possible effort was made to retain the authentic functions of the various rooms. The wards of the former Military Hospital were converted into hotel rooms and suites in the classic style (Napoleonic wing). In 2007 the garden wing was restored and renamed the Roman Wing, as archaeologists had found the remains of a Roman cemetery from the period 40 BC – 275 AD during the renovation. It is possible that the builders of the Castellum Trajectum, the fort that lies under the Domplein, were buried here! The Roman Wing now has 49 modern rooms and suites and a state-of-the-art wellness and fitness centre. Traces of the past can be found throughout the hotel in archaeological finds, exhibitions, archive photographs and historical drawings.