In May of 2002, the Monkey made a whirlwind tour of the Low Countries that included a short stop-off in Maastricht, Netherlands. He learned not only about the city’s ancient history, but also its role in European integration.
Maastricht was an interesting city for the Monkey. Founded as a Roman imperial post in the north, Maastricht much more recently played a crucial role in the formation of a new and larger European institution: the European Union. In February of 1992 the city hosted the conference of founding members of the EU. The heads of state of Belgium, Denmark, France, Germany, Greece, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Portugal, Spain, and the United Kingdom ratified what became known as the Maastricht Accord, which vowed to create “an ever closer union among the peoples of Europe, in which decisions are taken as closely as possible to the citizen.” Later, the EU added three members (Austria, Finland, and Sweden), and in 2004 it expanded dramatically to include the following states: the Czech Republic, Estonia, (Greek) Cyprus, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Malta, Poland, Slovakia, and Slovenia. By 2007, Bulgaria and Romania joined. Turkey, Croatia, Serbia, Montenegro, Macedonia, Switzerland, Iceland, and perhaps other states may also be invited to join the EU.
Ah, the Netherlands (a.k.a. Holland). Blessed with flat land, a mild climate year-round, and short distances between towns, the Dutch (like their Belgian neighbors) are bike-mad. The Monkey commends the Dutch for their use of this clean and healthy mode of transport. In the background of this Maastricht street, you can also see a building with the traditional stepped gables so common in Dutch architecture.
The Monkey by the Maas River in Maastricht. Behind him are the symmetrical arches of the St. Servaasbrug (St. Servatius Bridge).
The Monkey by the St. Servaaskerk, named for the 4th Century Armenian Saint Servatius, who, fearing a Hun invasion, moved the episcopal seat and its relics from Tongeren (now in Belgium) to Maastricht in 384 CE. The present church was constructed in the medieval and gothic periods, though the original structure was a small wooden chapel built on the grave of the saint, most likely in the late 4th or early 5th Century.
The Monkey interrupts a children’s game. Luckily, these kids are a riverside sculpture, so they weren’t much bothered.
The Monkey poses in front of a garden by two of Maastricht’s most famous churches. At left, the nave of St. Servaaskerk, seen above. St. Servaaskerk was an important Catholic center, and received many pilgrims. To accommodate the growing number of pilgrims and the religious needs of the local community, St. Janskerk (at right, with the red tint) was built in 1200. It served as a Catholic parish church until 1633, when the defeat of Spanish (Catholic) forces by the Protestant forces of the Netherlands brought St Janskerk under the control of the Protestant confession. It remains a Protestant church to this day.
Maastricht is considered the oldest fortified city in the Netherlands. Here the Monkey pauses for a shot in front of some of the watchtowers along the city’s ramparts.
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