A holiday in Maastricht

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


Bertus Pieters


Façades of The Hague #46

Façade of a building with no entrance to the street, Casuariestraat, built probably around 1900, maybe even later. I’m not sure about the original purpose of the building (somebody is?), however, the middle window once was a grand entrance of something.

At the moment there are studios in it of the Royal  Academy of Art (Koninklijke Academie van Beeldende Kunsten – KABK), and the building may well have been meant to contain studios right from the beginning, either for the KABK or for another institution in the neighbourhood.

In the 1970s and 80s it had a kind of clerestory on top which has vanished since.

As they used to be sculptor students’ studios, according to the artists duo Topp & Dubio, it once had a graffiti saying “FUCK BEELDHOUWERS” (“FUCK SCULPTORS”).

To make an homage to that graffiti the duo wrote a new one with the same text, which they were ordered by the police to remove, which they did. However, traces of the graffiti can still be seen.

[Click on the pictures to enlarge]

© Villa Next Door 2017

All pictures were taken in March 2016


Bertus Pieters

Topp & Dubio; Performance July 5th 2017, Plein, The Hague

P.S. has organised This Is Live!, an International Performance Art Event in The Hague – of which this is the last week – with workshops and performances.

Such an event in The Hague can’t exist without performers Topp & Dubio.

This afternoon they performed under the strict guidance of William the Silent in the Plein (the Square), just behind the heart and nerve centre of Dutch political power.

Along William’s pedestal they painted a line from south to north with vla, a kind of Dutch custard, available in different colours and corresponding tastes.

They used white, brown and pink vla respectively.

Just after applying the sweet and sticky stuff, they scraped it from the pavement with spoons, ending with a bicycle heading south.

The second part of the performance will be a press conference next Saturday (8 July) 10.30 p.m. at Quartair, Toussaintkade 55, where more artists will perform that evening.

As for this afternoon, i leave you with these pictures to see the story unfold.

[Click on the pictures to enlarge]

© Villa Next Door 2017

Content of all pictures courtesy to Topp & Dubio


Bertus Pieters

De Stijl centenary; Hofvijver, The Hague

City branding, city promotion, city marketing, they usually have nothing to do with the city you are living in, neither with the life you’re living in it, nor with the history and the present of the place.

This time, to promote The Hague, they’ve thrown red, blue and yellow blocks into the city’s Hofvijver, because of the commemoration of Mondrian and De Stijl.

In fact it has completely nothing to do with De Stijl, Mondrian or The Hague.

It has nothing to do with anything.

It is uncreative, uninspiring, blind promotion, blind stupidity.

Promotion is okay, but please don’t promote blatant empty-headedness.

However, what i do like, are the way birds are enjoying these platforms, the bird shit gives the blocks a wonderful natural look.

It’s the only bit of real fun about these blocks: they promote recreation for birds and it’s wonderful seeing them basking in the sunshine.

There is even a coot breeding on one of the blocks.

For next year’s promotional stunt i propose real hippo’s in the Hofvijver and i assure you when they’ll come out for grazing during the night,  they will have more to do with this city than you would like to believe.

[Click on the pictures to enlarge]

@ Villa Next Door 2017


Bertus Pieters

Façades of The Hague #37

Sculpture called De tijd (Time), made and placed in 1991, Jacob Catsstraat corner Waterloostraat.

According to one source it was made by an artist called Ibrahim Giyim. According to Stroom, who did some research about it, it was made by students of a secondary school during a workshop, led by Ibrahim Giyim.

I’ve found no information about Giyim on the internet. As you can see the modest landmark was rusting away.

Recently Maarten Demmink informed me he saw the work was being renovated, so i made a new picture some days ago (scroll down) to show life is not that bad in The Hague after all.

Thanks to Stroom and Maarten Demmink for their investigations and information. Click here for a web page about the restoration (by the way, the object was turned 180º during the restoration)

[Click on the pictures to enlarge]

© Villa Next Door 2017

All photographs were taken in March 2016, except for the last one which was taken in May 2017.

Bertus Pieters

Façades of The Hague #34

L’Homme (Man),

by Lon Pennock (1945),

made and placed in 1973,

Florence Nightingaleweg near Leyweg,

next to the then brandnew and modernist Leyenburg Hospital,

it still stands shiny and moving as a monument for its time and an inspiration to the present.

[Click on the pictures to enlarge]

© Villa Next Door 2017

All pictures were taken in March 2016


Bertus Pieters

Thom Puckey, Thorbecke monument; Lange Voorhout, The Hague

I went to Lange Voorhout to see Thom Puckey’s new Monument for Johan Rudolph Thorbecke and to write a review about it for Villa La Repubblica. Click here to read the review (in Dutch).

Being a Puckey fan, i can’t say i’m a fan of this particular monument.

I explain that in the VLR article, so i won’t say much about it here.

The idea for the monument of the 19th-century politician, who was the founder of the modern Dutch Constitution, seems to have been stimulated by the present trendy wave of ‘adhering to our shared values’ in politics.

This pompous policy seems to have got an appropriate monument now.

However, i should say there are some wonderful details in the sculpture.

Although they are difficult to see, as they are all on high pedestals.

[Click on the pictures to enlarge]

© Villa Next Door 2017

Bertus Pieters

Folkert de Jong, The Player and Dutch Mechanisms, The Hague


The Hague has two sculptures in public space by Folkert de Jong. I visited both to write a review about them for Villa La Repubblica. Click here to read the review (in Dutch).



The first one is called The Player and was commissioned for a square where people can sit and children can play.

Folkert de Jong 04

Folkert de Jong 05

It was placed in 2014.

Folkert de Jong 06

Folkert de Jong 07

De Jong based The Player on a court jester,

Folkert de Jong 08

Folkert de Jong 09

the one who could ridicule everything and everybody including the highest in power,

Folkert de Jong 10

Folkert de Jong 11

but who was also tolerated and protected by the highest in power.

Folkert de Jong 12

Folkert de Jong 13

That gives The Player a more or less ambiguous character.

Folkert de Jong 14

Though it has lost much of its original colour in two years time, it is still a powerful image.

Folkert de Jong 15

Folkert de Jong 16

Folkert de Jong 17

The other work was placed only this month in the town centre and is called Dutch Mechanisms.

Folkert de Jong 18

Folkert de Jong 19

Folkert de Jong 20

He based the sculpture on the bloodthirsty and orgiastic murder of Dutch statesman Johan de Witt and his brother by an Orangist mob in 1672, linking the murder to present day populism and abuse of power.

Folkert de Jong 21

Folkert de Jong 22

Folkert de Jong 23

He used a 3D copy of a tongue and of a finger of the brothers, still preserved at The Hague Historical Museum.

Folkert de Jong 24

Folkert de Jong 25

Folkert de Jong 26

Dutch Mechanisms is part of the public Sculpture gallery in the town centre.

Folkert de Jong 27

Folkert de Jong 28

Folkert de Jong 29

[Click on the pictures to enlarge]

Contents of the pictures courtesy Folkert de Jong


Bertus Pieters