If you’re a newcomer to Maastricht, chances are one of the first (and oldest) buildings you visited in the city was the Dinghuis. Now the centre of the VVV (tourist information centre), this unmissable old courthouse has been the home of the city courts, a prison, a puppet theatre, the provincial museum among other things – talk about a colourful history! We hope you enjoy episode nine of the podcast and have a chance to visit the Dinghuis soon with your newfound knowledge.
Our story for this episode our story starts in pre-medieval Maastricht with the city’s two rulers, represented above by the Sint Servaas Basilica (top left, (c) Wikimedia commons), and the Our Sweet Lady Basilica (top right, (c) LGB Hotels). The leaders behind these entities came together to rule Maastricht in a building where the Dinghuis (which can be understood to mean ‘courthouse’) now stands.
Above you can see the Dinghuis as it stood in the nineteenth century. The top two images are both illustrations by Jules Lefebvre done in c. 1880 and showing the building with (right, (c) RHCL) and without (left, (c) RHCL) the front gallery.
The bottom image shows a lithograph with both a front and back view of the Dinghuis in c. 1880 (L. Hebbelynck to Alexander Schaepkens, (c) RHCL).
A few decades later in the early years of the twentieth century, we can see the Dinghuis remaining a prominent feature amongst the businesses of the Groote Staat – even being featured on a Maastricht picture postcard from c. 1900 – 1903 (left, (c) RHCL). Above right you can see the base of the Dinghuis as it stood in c. 1900 – 1910 without the gallery mentioned above ( (c) RHCL).
The Dinghuis has had myriad uses and has been home to varying activities such as those pictured above. In the first photograph (top left) you can see Saint Nicolaas visiting the ‘Raadskelder’ in the bottom of Dinghuis (c. 1930, (c) RHCL). The second photo (top right) shows the Dinghuis in its days as the Museum of the History and Archeology Society in Limburg (LGOG) in c. 1910 – 1913 ( (c) RHCL).
The third photograph (bottom left) shows the interior of the building in c. 1938 as a cozy cafe ( (c) RHCL). The fourth shows a group of students, members of the Maastricht Youth Society Foundation in the reading room on the third floor ( c. 1963 – 1965, (c) RHCL). The Foundation was founded in 1963 by Father Laetus Keulaerds OFM.
A fun departure from it’s early days as a courthouse, the Dinghuis was also home to a puppet show lead by puppeteer, painter, actor, accordianist and cabaret artist Pieke Dassen. The first photo (top left) shows Dassen with one of the puppets from his Dinghuis ‘Poesjenellenkelder’ in 1962 ( (c) RHCL). Some might also recognise Dassen from his role on Dutch Sesame Street or the Film of Uncle Willem (De Film Van Ome Willem)! He can be seen in costume in the second photograph (top right) where he is pictured with his ‘Uncle Willem’ castmates Jennifer Willems and Aart Staartjes ( (c) ANP Archive).
The bottom photograph shows local children gathering in readiness for the puppet production of ‘Snow White and the Seven Dwarves’ in 1950 ( (c) RHCL).
The three photographs above show the Dinghuis during its restoration in the 1960s. The left photograph shows the steel structure erected during restoration of the Dinghuis (20/2/1970, (c) RHCL). In the centre we can see the interior of the second floor which was not renovated until 1985 / 1986 (4/11/1967, (c) RHCL). The photograph on the right shows the interior of the “Belle-etage” on the first floor of the Dinghuis as it was on 12/12/1962, prior to restoration ( (c) RHCL).
Above you can see the Dinghuis as it stands today! On the left is the interior of the ground floor which is the centre of the VVV (Visit Maastricht) and a great spot to grab maps, souvenirs or more information about Maastricht ( (c) DMDJ). On the left you can see the exterior, including the clear separation of the stone facade and sides of the building ( (c) DMDJ).
This episode includes a clip of music from the bells in Maastricht Town Hall on the Markt which joined the churches in Maastricht which rang out on the 18/3/2020 to spread hope during the global pandemic. You can watch the full video here.
As always, if you have something you have always wanted to know about Maastricht or wanted to ask a local, please contact us through social media or our website and we will do our best to answer your questions in future episodes!