MAASTRICHT, or MAESTRICHT, a frontier town and the capital of the province of Limburg, Holland, on the left bank of the Maas at the influx of the river Geer, 19 m. by rail N.N.E. of Li6ge in Belgium. Pop. (1904), 36,146. A small portion of the town, known as Wyk, lies on the right bank. A stone bridge connecting the two replaced a wooden structure as early as 1280, and was rebuilt in 1683. Formerly a strong fortress, Maastricht is still a considerable garrison town, but its ramparts were dismantled in 1871-1878. The town-hall, built by Pieter Post and completed in 1683, contains some interesting pictures and tapestry. The old town-hall (Oud Stadhuis), a Gothic building of the 15th century, is now used as a museum of antiquities. The church of St Servatius is said to have been founded by Bishop Monulphus in the 6th century, thus being the oldest church in Holland; according to one account it was rebuilt and enlarged as early as the time of Charlemagne. The crypt with the tomb of the patron saint dates from the original building. The varied character of its late Romanesque and later Gothic architecture bears evidence of the frequency with which the church has been restored and altered. Over the porch is the fine emperor's hall, and the church has a marble statue of Charlemagne. The church of Our Lady, a late Romanesque building, has two ancient crypts and a 13 thcentury choir of exceptional beauty, but the nave suffered severely from a restoration in 1764. The present Gothic building of St Martin (in Wyk) was erected in 1859; the original church is said by tradition to have occupied the site of an old heathen temple. The Protestant St Janskerk, a Gothic building of the 13th and isth centuries, with a fine tower, was formerly the baptistery of the cathedral. The various hospitals, the poor-house, the orphanage and most of the other charitable foundations are Roman Catholic institutions. Maastricht contains the provincial archives, a library and geological collections. Though mainly indebted for its commercial prosperity to its position on the river, the town did not begin to reap the full advantages of its situation till the opening of the railways between 1853 and 1865. At first a trade was carried on in wine, colonial wares, alcoholic liquors and salt; there are now manufactures of earthenware, glass and crystal, arms, paper, woollens, tools, lead, copper and zinc work, as well as breweries, and tobacco and cigar factories, and a trade in corn and butter.
A short distance south of Maastricht are the great sandstone quarries of Pietersberg, which were worked from the time of the Romans to near the end of the igth century; the result is one of the most extraordinary subterranean labyrinths in the world, estimated to cover an area 15 m. by 9 m. In the time of the Spanish wars these underground passages served to hide the peasants and their cattle.
Maastricht was originally the trajectus superior (upper ford) of the Romans, and was the seat of a bishop from 382 to 721. Having formed part of the Prankish realm, it was ruled after 1204 jointly by the dukes of Brabant and the prince-bishops of Liege. In 1579 it was besieged by the Spaniards under the duke of Parma, being captured and plundered after a heroic resistance. It was taken by the French in 1673, 1748 and 1794.
Note - this article incorporates content from Encyclopaedia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, (1910-1911)