Holland’s oldest fortified city, Maastricht is a popular destination with a welcoming multicultural atmosphere. Enjoy a guided tour of its magnificent buildings and historic cobblestone town centre.
After breakfast on this cold, dank, dismal day we went exploring Maastricht since we were docked by the historic center and it was not yet raining! Most of the shops were not yet open but it was great to explore the narrow streets on our own. Since the ship was docked near the Pedestrian bridge we also went exploring the other side for a half hour or so before returning to the Opal for lunch and a rest. After lunch we had the guided walking tour, at the completion of that it started raining so we stopped for a few snacks and a pint of beer! Did some more wandering, a bit of shopping then back to the Opal. The entertainment after dinner tonight was the Piano Gala Trio.
Maastricht – Neanderthal and Paleolithic (8,000 to 25,000 years old) remains have been found in the area around Maastricht. By 500 BC the Celts lived here where the river Meuse was shallow and easy to cross. It’s unknown when the Romans arrived but they built a bridge across the Meuse in 1 AD, during the reign of Augustus Caesar. As one of the oldest cities in the region it is rich in history and cultural importance from the Romans to the Middle Ages to Present Day.
Saint Servatius Bridge (top photo) – The bridge the Romans built collapsed in 1275 when a large procession was crossing, killing 400 people. The present bridge built between 1280 and 1298 is slightly north of the original and was renovated in 1683. Made of 8 stone arches spanning 12 to 13,5m each it had a 19,9m span at one end, in wood, which could easily be removed in siege conditions.
Vrijthof – Maastrichs’ main square – Large, cafe-lined square with a fountain…Originally the site of a late Roman and Frankish Cemetery, the area was transferred to Saint Servatius Church in 1223 and walled in. In the 19th century it became the city’s main square.
Han van Wetering, Sculptures(1993) in the square. The original bronze sculptures of five carnival musicians were treated with a colourful polychromatic coating in 2005.
The Basilica of Saint Servatius backs onto the square. Founded in the 6th century, built on the site of the grave of Saint Servatius(384), it is the oldest church in the Netherlands. The architectural style is a combination of Late Romanesque and Early Gothic. From the 11th to the 15th century it was enlarged and the interior went through many renovations.
The gothic Church of Saint John (Protestant) located next to Saint Servatius, with a 246-foot red tower, was originally built as a baptistery for the St. Servatius in the 13th century. The Dutch Reformed Church (protestant), established in 1632, took possession of it in 1633 after which it served as an autonomous parish church. The 15thC wooden belfry in the red tower contained a small bell (1687) called the “gate bell” which chimed daily when the city gates were open and closed. Stolen by the Germans in 1943 the clock was replaced in 1997.
City Hall is located on another side of the square – Built from 1659-1664 by the architect Pieter Post; the tower dates from 1684 and houses a carillon with 49 bells that is still played regularly.
Bishop’s Mill – The oldest working water wheel is located in the center of the Old Town on the Jeker River. Built in the 7th century it has had different functions through the years. In the 11th century, it was let out to the Principality of Liège, which is when it received its current name. In the late Middle Ages, the mill was run by the Brewers’ Guild and beer brewers in the city were required to have their malt ground by the Bisschopsmolen. In 2004 the mill and associated building were fully renovated. The baker prepares traditional bread and pies that visitors can enjoy.
Onze Lieve Vrouwewal The first city wall along the waterfront built in 1229.
Helpoort – Medieval Hell’s Gate, is the oldest city gate in the country. It got its name because of the prisoners kept in its tower. Construction of the gate began in 1229. It was the southeastern entrance to the city through the first City Walls. After the second City Walls were constructed in the 15th century, the gate was no longer needed and over the years, served as a residence, storage space and workshop. Today the gate houses a museum dedicated to the history of Maastricht’s fortifications.
The Dinghuis, the city’s visitor center was constructed at the end of the 15th century in the Gothic style. The northern façade, built around 1470, is timber-framed, and the main façade, built of Namur stone, has a pediment containing a grand clock face. At the top of the steeply sloped roof is a tower that was once used as a lookout. The Dinghuis served mainly administrative and judicial functions, and its cellars contained goals for holding prisoners. In 1713, the Dinghuis also served as a theater.
The Basilica of Our Lady, a renowned Roman catholic basilica dating to the 11th century, is located in the historic center of Maastricht. There are claims of healing attached to the statue of Our Lady, Star of the Sea located there.
The Westwork, is the monumental, west-facing entrance section of a Carolingian, Ottonian, or Romanesque church, the exterior consisting of multiple stories between two towers. This Westwork of the Basilica of Our Lady is built of carbonic sandstone, dates from the early 11th century and is flanked by two narrow towers with marlstone turrets.
The Tower of Saint Barbara in the Basilica of Our Lady was used for storage of the city archives and the church treasury.
Mérode Chapel Entrance of the Basilica of Our Lady – A 13th-century Gothic portal, rebuilt in the 15th century, provides access to the Mérode chapel (or Star of the Sea chapel) from Onze Lieve Vrouweplein.
The 13th century Dominican Church (and Monastery) , de-consecrated when Maastricht was invaded by Napoleon in 1794 and the Dominicans forced out, has been used for various secular purposes through the centuries and is now a bookstore.
Located near the waterfront near the old town center the house ‘In den Swaen‘ was already known as an inn and brewery in the early seventeenth century. In 1774 it was rebuilt and a few years later merged with number 35, the ground floor of number 35 was then used as a coach house with a hay loft above.