St. Servaas and his stories

St. Servaas and his stories
On January 27th Meet Maastricht offered the tour of St. Servaas for the third time – it seems the interest in this imposing monument is never ending; every time we announce it, it is booked to capacity in no time. Of course that is in no small part due to the story telling of Julia Wojtas – she provides our guests with all the relevant information in an entertaining way.

Photo credits: Martijn Weyenberg

We started off with a quick overview of the history of Maastricht’s start and yearly centuries, looking at the objects displayed in the ‘Lange Gaank’ – the vaulted halls surrounding the inner courtyard. After that, we visited the Treasure Room, filled with the precious objects which testify to faith, power and cultural preferences through the ages. The greatest treasure kept here is the elaborate gold plate shrine of St. Servaas, a masterpiece of the craftsmen of a thousand years ago.

Photo credits: Lucy Willems 

And on into the majestic church itself, with stories of its builders and of the significance of the statues and paintings. We descended into the crypt and were allowed to enter the small cellar containing the burial site of the saint – the threshold stone completely worn away by the footsteps of the millions who passed here to pay their respect. In a second crypt Julia explained to us the different stages of the building, the oldest dating back about 1500 years.
After that it was up and up, on a winding Medieval staircase, first to the great balcony overlooking the church. And upward, on a more narrow stone spiral stairway, to the magnificent Emperor’s Hall, a serene vaulted chamber. And higher still, up into the bell tower, where you can see the top of the stone vaulted ceiling. From there we could walk up narrow wooden stairs to the bells, as long as we got back down before the bells started ringing… It was a great experience; thank you Julia and we will be happy to have you as our guide again soon!

Photo credits: Martijn Weyenberg

Carnavalogy

Carnaval in Maastricht – Vastelaovend in Mestreech
You must have noticed by now – the red-yellow-green flags in the shopping streets, stores with really weird clothes on offer and possibly a lot of noise on January 14th from a silly parade starting at the central station and winding it’s way to a packed Markt. For those of you who have been here longer it was clear: start of Carnaval season, the city’s Carnaval Prince unveiled!
No, Maastricht does not do November 11th, that’s when people from surrounding villages come and declare their start of the season. I guess most of Maastricht at that time is preoccupied with their costumes – we also do not do onesies of cows and pigs, bought off the rack by teens and students at the last moment. But that’s OK too, because the main thing is to participate; Vastelaovend is many things but it is emphatically not a spectator sport. We don’t care if you don’t know our local songs – we have a new one each year, so we can’t keep up ourselves – but we do care you have a great time by throwing yourself right into it all. Wear your shower curtain, borrow your grandfather’s wedding suit, stitch together a 1000 fluffy animals, anything and everything out of the ordinary is perfect. And if you can (pretend to) play a drum or a trumpet you can join the hundreds of ‘musicians’ everywhere!
Another point to clear up beforehand; ofcourse there is alcohol involved, but the point is not to drink yourself senseless as soon as possible. How do you think all those musicians and dancers and pranksters last for three days straight? Because that IS the point; to last, from the canon shots booming across the Vrijthof on Sunday, to accompany the hoisting up on her flagpole of the giant market woman, our Mooswief, to the lowering of said woman on Tuesday, midnight. The prince will have all his regalia taken from him and he will be carted off unceremoniously on a garbage truck, along with the Mooswief. And we stand there, in our thousands, and sing, and cry, and hug eachother, saying thank you for a great Vastelaovend and promising eachother to be back next year. And then we walk, slowly, sadly, to the tune of a funeral dirge, out from the Vrijthof in all directions, back to our homes. Exhausted, with sore feet, hoarse and drained, but not too drunk to know it is over…. Untill next year!

 

(photo credits: Maria Vatista) 

St. Servaas basilica tour

When we planned two tours with an archaeologist we could not have foreseen how many wonderful surprises they would offer. Sjoerd Aarts happily made time for us in Centre Céramique – have a look at the pictures from the underground vaults on our FB page – and today he was waiting for us at St. Servaas Basilica, the majestic church on the Vrijthof. He was joined by the parish chaplain Garcia, so we were offered two views of the building and its history; the scientific, dealing with facts and proof, and the religious, concerned with belief and meaning. It made for some fascinating conversations along the way, also because there were people from other religions in our group.

Photo credits: Lucy Willems 

Photo credits: Martijn Weyenberg

Photo credits: Martijn Weyenberg

Together, we explored the small exhibition on Maastricht’s history in one of the cloisters, before entering the imposing church itself. Sjoerd handed around candles and we all descended into the darkness of the crypt – there, we were presented with an outline of the different buildings which have housed the grave of St. Servaas. In the adjoining crypt, where this grave can still be seen, chaplain Garcia told the story of how Christians would come to venerate these places. Up into the light of the great basilica we went and our guides had more stories to tell about the stones, the builders and the pilgrims.

Photo credits: Martijn Weyenberg

Photo credits: Martijn Weyenberg

Up and up we went, along a circular staircase to the Hall of the Emperor – a beautiful Medieval hall, even if no emperor ever watched Mass there. And even higher we could go on this special tour; into the bell tower, on increasingly narrow stairs. We had to wait on the floor below the bells – they would ring soon and up close that is simply too much for human ears. Their ringing was quite impressive, even if these were just the regular bells. St. Servaas also houses ‘Grameer’ (Grandmother), a huge bell with a deep, booming voice, only to be heard a few times a year. It was with some difficulty we left this magical place, but we thanked both our kind guides and stepped out in the late afternoon sunlight.

Photo credits: Lucy Willems

Photo credits: Martijn Weyenberg

Photo Contest

Hello fellow Meet Maastricht lovers!

The academic year has started with a lot of energy and we had more than 400 participants during our events on September! That was a great gift for our first anniversary! For celebrating our one-year birthday, we came up with the idea of organizing a competition. A competition where we can connect our two main inspirations for our activities: the city of Maastricht and of course you, Maastricht’s community! For two weeks, we invite you to use all your creativity and capture your favourite spots of Maastricht. With uploading your pictures in your social media with the hashtag #meetmaastricht, you will take part in our competition.

These are the rules:

  • Be creative and take a picture of your favourite spot in Maastricht
  • Upload it to your social media (Facebook, instagram, twitter etc.) with the hashtag #meetmaastricht
  • After two weeks, we are going to select the best pictures and upload them in our FBpage for being available to the public (in case you do not agree with the re-posting of your pictures, you can contact us and we will eliminate you from the competition)
  • All pictures will be uploaded with credits to their owners and will be available for public’s votes for one week
  • After one week of voting, the three pictures having the majority of likes will be announced as winners!
  • And of course this will not come without a prize! The winning photos are going to be used for our new postcard’s edition!

Maastricht is so marvelous during autumn! Take your smartphones and your cameras, go for a walk and let us discover this autumn’s beauty through your eyes! We are looking forward to see your photos and thank you all for your support!

Meet Maastricht team