Due to its strategic importance as a river crossing in Medieval times Maastricht was a walled city and during this period was variously occupied by the Dutch, the French and the Spanish. Several seiges were laid on the city with each resulting in breaches and refortifications.
After the 1839 Treaty of London when Maastricht, and the Limburg Province, became officially part of the Netherlands the walls became a constraint on the city's industrial expansion and were mostly dismantled leaving only short stretches here and there.
The most intact stretch is that which runs through the Stadspark and the ramparts themselves have been turned into a well-tended horticultural footpath which during my visit in early July was a riot of vibrant colours and scents.
Close to the Helpoort you can see the Walmuur which the best example of the city walls of the town. They were built in 1229 to protect from razzie. They had watch tower to regular intervals (you can still see some of them nowdays) and of the walks of watch for the watches.
In front of the fortifications you can see some guns of the 17th century.
Helpoort (Gateway of the Hell, in English) is a wonderful tower built in 1229. It was part of the first city walls built in the 11th century. It is the anciest Dutch gateway and the only one that survive in Maastricht. Inside it there is a museum about the story of the Dutch fortifications and the history of the town.
Helpoort, that is the gate of the hell, the oldest part of the city wall, was being built in 1229.
Not far from here Comte d'Artagnan as captain of the Guard lost his life in the 1673 French-Dutch war.
The hero also inspiring Dumas was a musketeer of King Louis XIV., and since some years he has a sculpture already in the Aldenhofpark.
Originally Maastricht was surrounded by city walls, high and thick to protect its people....little is left today, but around the few remaining towers and walls they have put ponds (possible remnants of a moat) and parks. Well worth your while to take a stroll here and if you have the time, take a picnic.
City walls defending the old city - builded by the Romans. A so called "Poort" in dutch or "Portal" in english.
The word "Portare" is the basic - the builders of a new roman city, first carved the borderlines of their new "Camp". The place to install an entrance was never carved - the workers lifted/portered their carving machinery.
The Pater Vinktoren tower, where the heads of five inhabitants of Maastricht who had helped the hated Spanish were displayed, has been reconstructed, and a small section of defences around the tower remain
In 1516 the fortifications of Maastricht were enlarged with two bastions because of the development of a new type of canon which needed more space around to use it. The names of the two bastions are the ´Vijf koppen´ (the five heads) and ´Haet ende Nijt´ (hate and envy). The first bastion is named after the 5 heads of pater Vink and four other condemned which were placed at this bastion after their execution.
Despite the cruel history this area is now a lovely area to walk around. You can walk down in the park with a nice view at the fortifications from the outside. You can also climb up the walls and fortifications from where you have a nice view at the park and can see the canons.
Between the two bastions you have the ´Poort Waerachtig´, not a part of the original wall from the 14th century, but ´newly´ built in 1888.
If I got it correctly, the name refers to the fact that prisoners were kept in this gate tower and therefore it was a "Hell's Tower". In any case, it is one of the oldest gates in any wall in the Netherlands.
Maastricht is lucky to have the walls left I think as it gives a city that special historic feel to it. Here, you can also enjoy the parkland around the walls in many places. Excellent areas for strolling, people watching and having fun.
The Pater Vinck Toren (Dutch for Tower of Father Vinck) used to be part of the second city walls. At this spot the second city walls connected with the first walls. These second city walls were built around the year 1300.
The tower itself was designed by the architect Spenger. The second city wall, attached to the tower, has been torn down. But the first city wall, connecting the tower to Hell's Gate is still standing upright.
After being renovated in 1906, the tower got it's name. It's named after the Fransiscan father, Servatius Vinck. He was sentenced to death and executed in 1638, on account of treason. Later he was found not guilty, but of course it was too late for him.
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