River Meuse to the south
Last Tuesday i bought a cheap rail pass for one day and went to Maastricht in the very south of the country. Frequent readers of this blog might expect i went to see the present Raymond Pettibon show at the Bonnefantenmuseum, but for a holiday i had a different plan.
River Meuse to the north
As i have a keen interest in medieval and renaissance art and architecture i visited three famous medieval churches in the Limburg capital.
Indication of the place of the Roman bridge, west shore of the river
Replica of a Roman sculpture 2nd century AD, part of the monument for the Roman bridge.
Maastricht itself was founded by the Romans. It developed on the western shore of the Meuse river (Maas in Dutch) when the Romans built a bridge for their road from Bavay (now in northern France) to Cologne (the so-called Via Belgica), probably by the end of the first century B.C.
St. Servatius bridge from the south
St. Servatius bridge from the northwest
It probably served as an east west thoroughfare until the Sint-Servaasbrug (Saint Servatius’ bridge) was built in the 13th century. The present day St. Servatius’ bridge is however a structure of the 1930s, with a modern concrete skeleton, but covered with original stones and rebuilt more or less as the old medieval bridge. For pedestrians and cyclists it connects the railway station with the city centre.
Model of St. Servatius church, as seen from the south
Model of St. Servatius church, as seen from the west
The first church i visited was the Sint-Servaasbasiliek (Basilica of St. Servatius).
St. Servatius, apse and northeast tower, 12th century
St. Servatius, apse from the south, 12th century
Left, St. John’s church (14th-15th century); right, St. Servatius, apse, towers and transept from the east, 12th century with major restorations from late 19th century.
St. Servatius from the southeast (12th century) with modern car park
The present church was founded around 1000 after it was preceded by at least three earlier churches.
St. Servatius from the southeast, 11th to 15th century and 19th century (especially gable of portal and spires of the west towers)
St. Servatius from the south. Original Romanesque windows in 19th century restored gable of portal
St. Servatius from the south. Medieval embellishments in 19th century restored gable of portal
The first structure was said to be a burial chapel for Saint Servatius, bishop of Tongeren, erected in the 4th century in a Roman graveyard.
Left, St. Servatius (11th – 15th century/ 19th century); right St. John’s (14th – 15th century)
St. Servatius, westwork from the southwest, 12th century, spires 19th century
St. Servatius, westwork with south buttress
St. Servatius’, westwork with south buttress
To give more space to pilgrims and to build a grander structure for the chapter the Carolingian church was completely flattened by the end of the 10th century after which building of the present church started.
St. Servatius’, westwork
St. Servatius, westwork with north buttress
St. Servatius, westwork from the northwest
The columns and parts of the walls of the nave are still from that original “new” early 11th century Romanesque church, as are the foundations of the side aisles, choir and crypt.
St. Servatius, west towers (12th century, spires 19th century) from the northeast
St. Servatius, from the north; 14th and 15th century chapels
St. Servatius, window of the cloisters, 15th century
St. Servatius, windows of the cloisters, 15th century
It was consecrated in 1039 in the presence of Holy Roman emperor Henry III and 12 bishops.
St. Servatius, tympanum with relief over the north entrance. Maiestas Domini, with Christ in the middle and the symbols of the 4 evangelists. 12th century
St. Servatius, altar niche from around 1330, with Madonna and Child, probably 15th century
St. Servatius, Gothic vaulting of south transept
However, as a prestigious chapter church with imperial connections important changes were made already in the same century: the westwork was extended and a new transept with chapels and crossing were built.
St. Servatius, south aisle towards the west
St. Servatius, South Portal, around 1200, poorly restored end 16th century after the 1566 Iconoclasm, restored again and painted late 19th century by Pierre Cuypers
St. Servatius, South Portal, 4 Old Testament figures, left to tight: Samuel, David, Moses and Abraham. Heads of Samuel, David and Moses, David’s harp, Moses’ tablet and Abraham’s angel are 19th century
St. Servatius, South Portal: Simeon, St. John the Baptist, St. John the Evangelist and St. Servatius. Simeon’s (then thought to be Mary) and the Christ child’s head, the Baptist’s head and almost all of St. Servatius are 19th century
During the 12th century the apse of the east choir was built in its present day shape as well as the two east towers.
St. Servatius, South Portal: scenes from the life of Mary, 12th century
St. Servatius, South Portal, archivolts with 2 figures cleaned in the early 1990s
St. Servatius, South Portal, capital with Elkanah and Hannah bearing Samuel
The church’s famous westwork was more or less completed, containing a west choir, an imperial seat, an imperial hall and the two west towers.
St. Servatius, South Portal, capital with David and Goliath bearing David
St. Servatius, South Portal, capital with a ram, bearing Abraham
St. Servatius, South Portal, capital with water and fishes, bearing St. John the Pabtist
St. Servatius, South Portal, capital with eagle, bearing Saint John the Evangelist
From around 1200 onwards a gothic revamping of the church started with the building of the South Portal, considered to be the oldest Gothic structure in the Netherlands.
St. Servatius, South Portal, looking towards the east
St. Servatius, part of the original rood screen for the west choir (around 1170), Christ blessing Saints Peter and Servatius
St. Servatius, Gothic vaulting of the nave, decorated in the late 20th century
In the 14th and 15th centuries the aisles were extended with Gothic chapels, side aisles, nave, transept and older chapels were re-vaulted in the Gothic style, Gothic windows were added as well as (flying) buttresses.
St. Servatius, towards the west
St. Servatius, Seat of Wisdom, late 13th century
St. Servatius, Seat of Wisdom, side view
St. Servatius, view of the west choir, 12th century. (The organ is 17th – 19th century). The west choir has three floors, amongst others containing the ‘Imperial Hall’ and interesting Romanesque capitals. However entry is not permitted
The cloisters were rebuilt in the 15th century.
St. Servatius, view of the west choir
St. Servatius treasury, portable altar, serpentine 4th century and silver 12th century
St. Servatius treasury, bust of St. Servatius, gilded copper and diamonds, around 1580
Architect Pierre Cuypers (1827-1921) conducted a major restoration of the church during the last quarter of the 19th century.
St. Servatius treasury, detail of a Kinship of St. Anna, oil on panel, Westphalian, late 15th century
St. Servatius treasury, St. Servatius reliquary chest, wood, gilded copper diamonds and enamel, around 1180
St. Servatius treasury, St. Servatius reliquary chest
St. Servatius treasury, St. Servatius reliquary chest, detail
He had the church redecorated, restored the capitals and sculptures and added new ones, he got rid of baroque gables, additional buildings and replaced the spires of the west towers with neo-Romanesque ones.
St. Servatius treasury, St. Servatius reliquary chest, detail
St. Servatius treasury, reliquary chest, ivory and copper, Sicilian 13th century
St. Servatius treasury, reliquary chest, ivory, niello silver, probably Venetian, 13th century
St. Servatius treasury, table reliquary holder, St. Catherine, gilded copper, quartz, 14th century
In the 1980s the church was restored again in which amongst others the colour decorations by Cuypers were removed (except in the South Portal) and “new” quasi-late Gothic decorations were added.
St. John’s (14th – 15th century) from the east
St. John’s, choir and northeast chapel
St. John’s, bell tower from the east
Next to Sint-Servaas is Sint-Janskerk (St. John’s church).
St. John’s, bell tower from the west
St. John’s from the west
St. John’s, nave and south aisle
It was founded around 1200 to serve as a parish church when St. Servatius’ church became exclusively a chapter and pilgrims church.
St. John’s, nave and choir
St. John’s, nave and north aisle (pulpit 1779)
St. John’s, northern clerestory
The present Gothic church is 14th and 15th century, has a nave and side aisles, a northwest chapel and a choir without an ambulatory.
St. John’s, nave vaulting
St. John’s, choir
St. John’s, looking towards the west (organ console 1780, organ itself 1990s)
It has no transept.
St. John’s, vaulting of the choir
St. John’s, nave as seen from the choir
St. John’s, northeast chapel
The bell tower is open for climbing, but i’ve left that for next time.
St. John’s, vaulting of the northeast chapel
St. John’s, decoration in the northeast chapel
In 1632, after the conquest of Maastricht by Frederick Henry of Orange, it became a protestant church.
Our Lady’s Church, westwork (11th – 12th century, with minor changes in the late 19th century), on the left the 15th century entrance portal
The third church i visited was the Onze-Lieve-Vrouwebasiliek (Basilica of Our Lady). Not much is known about its predecessors but the first one may have been built on the premises of a Roman temple.
Our Lady’s Church, entrance portal. The big grey stone blocks on the left side of the westwork near the ground are spolia from an ancient Roman building
The present church was probably built in the 11th and 12th centuries as a Romanesque collegiate church.
Our Lady’s Church, top of the characteristic westwork
In the 15th century it got a higher roof and Gothic vaulting. Also the windows were enlarged to allow more daylight into the church.
Our Lady’s Church, the two west towers
The Gothic west portal is 15th century. Around 1900 the church was heavily restored by Pierre Cuypers.
Our Lady’s Church, from the south
The east façade had to be rebuilt almost completely but Cuypers doesn’t seem to have done so as rigorously as he has done with other medieval buildings.
Our Lady’s Church, from the east. This part of the church is mostly a 19th century reconstruction by Cuypers
He replaced and reduced the Gothic windows for smaller neo-Romanesque ones, thus making it a dark church again.
Our Lady’s Church, interior with 14th or 15th century gothic vaulting. (organ, 1652) The church has an extremely dark interior, such that your eyes have to get used to it. Making pictures is hardly possible.
However he couldn’t keep his hands off the famous westwork: he lowered its roof to make the two turrets look more impressive.
[Click on the pictures to enlarge]
All pictures were taken on Tuesday July 25th 2017.
© Villa Nxt Door 2017