Episode 21: Spaans Gouvernement (Museum aan het Vrijthof)

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Chances are if you’ve visited the Vrijthof, you’ve seen the Museum aan het Vrijthof (AKA the Spaans Gouvernement)! This week we’re talking about a building which used to accommodate visiting royalty and now houses a photography museum. Tune in to find out more!


Above are four illustrations of the Spanish Government building in Maastricht. Top left you can see part of the building as well as the Sint-Jacobskerk which was demolished in 1803 (Valentine Klotz, c. 1671, (c) RHCL). Top right is another painting by Valentine Klotz showing the southeastern part of the Vrijthof as seen from the northwest – the Spanish Government building is on the right of the picture (c. 1670, (c) RHCL).

The third picture (bottom left) shows the Vrijthof as it may have been in 1600, with the Spanish Government building on the left (Philippe van Gulpen, c. 1840, (c) RHCL). On the bottom right you can see a painting by Gulpen of the Spanish Government building’s rear facade, painted in 1846 ( (c) RHCL).

Above are portraits of Charles V (left) and his son Philip II (right) who used the Spanish Government building as a residence on their occasional visits to Maastricht (both painted c. 1550s by Titian, left (c) Wikimedia Commons, right (c) Wikimedia Commons).

An interesting feature of the Spanish Government building’s facade is the relief work with iconography and heraldry relating to the Spanish King. Above (top left and right) are close up photographs of two of the moldings which have been painted ( (c) Zichtopmaastricht.nl). The bottom image is a painting by Philippe van Gulpen which shows three of the window carvings as he might have seen them in c. 1840 ( (c) RHCL).

Above is the floor plan for the Spanish Government building, drawn c. 1913 by W. Sprenger ( (c) RHCL).

Over time the building has seen various restorations and changes which can be seen in the photographs above. The first (top left) shows workmen completing renovations work on the rear facade in July 1917 ( (c) RHCL). The second photograph (top right) shows the same facade in 1962 with decorative windows ( (c) Wikimedia Commons).

The third photograph shows the front facade immediately prior to large scale renovations which took place between 1970 and 1973 ( (c) RHCL). In this photograph you can also see the white colour of the facade which is now red.

Above are two interior photographs showing the building during it’s use as a museum, the left in 2010 ( (c) Wikipedia Commons) and the right undated ( (c) Frans Hermans via Pinterest). In the left photograph, the arches of the rear facade can be seen, filled with windows which look out onto the courtyard. In the right photograph, a period reception room has been recreated.

In the first photo above you can see the entrance and cafe in a photograph which also shows columns visible in older pictures, now an interior feature (2012, (c) Kleon3 via Wikipedia Commons).

The second photograph shows the modern (2019) floorplan of the Museum aan het Vrijthof with the ground floor on the left and first floor on the right ( (c) Janstel.nl). Below you can see the entrance and cafe in a photograph which also shows columns visible in older pictures, now an interior feature (2012, (c) Kleon3 via Wikipedia Commons).

As a museum, the Spanish Government building has seen various exhibitions including “(OLD)Fashion(ed)” which was a collaboration with FASHIONCLASH, Nederlandse Dansdagen (Dutch Dance Festival) and Museum aan het Vrijthof in 2014 (photographs above (c) Fashionclash.nl).

In 2019 the Museum aan het Vrijthof opened as a photography museum and the photographs above were taken by the first exhibitor Jan Stel in 2019 ( (c) Janstel.nl).

This last photograph is a contemporary image of the museum during the covid-19 pandemic in July 2020 ( (c) Katrina Marshall). While the lovely indoor cafe is usually open to all, during the pandemic restrictions take away food and coffee was available via the front door.


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!