St. Servaas church, Maastricht
Inside the basilica of St Servatius, there are many beautiful fixtures, fittings, statuary etc. None the least is the beautiful tiled floor. The side altars featuring some wonderful icons, statues, pictures etc. are a joy to behold (as they say). I was fortunate to be able to join in the praying of the rosary in the little chapel before going into the main church.
Originally built over the grave of St Servatius, this beautiful church has been rebuilt, replaced, restored and renovated many times until the present church was declared a basilica by Pope John Paul II when he visited Maastricht in May 1985. The history o f St Servatius is very interesting and quite remarkable. The bell tower houses a carillon of 43 bells and is known world wide.
The interior of th Sint Servaas Basiliek has got three naves which have kept their early Roman character. The main nave is 11 metres wide, 53 metres long, and 21 metres high.
In the apse is you can see Neo-Gothic choir stalls dating from 1890. The dome painting in the apse shows Christ as Judge of the world, as John the Evangelist saw Him in his visions, described in the Apocalypse. Below the main altar there is the crypt located where the Saint was buried in 384.
The visit of the Sint Servaas Basiliek starts in the beautiful cloister. Here you can see the Capitulary Room built in the 11th century; nowdays it is the Scatkamer (Treasure Room). Here you can see the fantastic Cross of Saint Servatius made in Trier in 993, the grave of Saint Servatius with gilded copper and precious stones made in 1160; many reliquary among which the most important is the one own by Thomas the Apostle.
Sint Servaas Basiliek (Saint Servatius Basilica) is the more ancient Dutch church and it is a masterpiece of the Romanesque architecture.
The first church was consecrated in 1039 but the construction still continued for centuries. Between the 11th and 12th century they built the choir and the apse. In the 13th century were added the square small towers, the naves and the narthex with three kinds of Lombard arches and big buttress. It supports the square tower and the lateral ones.
In the 12th century the south gateway was added with sculptures and statues which were painted during the 18th century.
Everywhere I have visited a church I heard that the true treasures of a church are its saints. Their relics are kept and worshipped with due care. The same applies to the Basilica of Saint Servatius - to its Treasury. The property of the treasury is quite sizeable and are displayed from various perspectives. First of all, we saw a display of objects which relate to Saint Servatius himself such as the gilded bust, the pectoral cross, the pilgrim's staff, the crosier, the chalice with portable altar, the seal and the goblet.
But we think that the ultimate showpiece is the so-called 'Noodkist' (Chest Reliquary), being the shrine of Saint Servatius. The shrine contains what remains of the relics of Saint Servatius. The 'Noodkist', which dates from around 1160, is considered the milestone of the goldsmith trade and was carried in procession through the streets of Maastricht in times of great distress. Today, this tradition is repeated every seven years. Other treasures we saw were a crozier, a staff, a pectoral cross, a chalice, and the very key to Heaven. These remains are encased in precious metals adorned with gems or in valuable fabrics. It’s beyond me that all this beautiful stuff is just there to be seen!
We went inside and were pleasantly surprised by the gentle admission of only €3,50. For this amount we were able to stroll through this beautiful and prominent church and saw it all! We just walked around at our own pace and our own way. We saw (below the Presbytery) where the history of Saint Servatius begins. The crypt is the location where the Saint was buried in 384. The crypt was built over the grave of the Saint around 1050 and there is no reason to doubt that the saint's remains are to be found here.
Another part we visited was at the north side of the Basilica where the quadrangle is located, enclosed at three sides by a cloister dating from the 15th century. In the quadrangle, we saw the 'Grameer', the bell of Saint Servatius called 'Grandma', which was made in 1515 and which weighs 6600 kilograms!!! It’s placed here, because in 1983 this old bell was silenced forever. After we enjoyed the sun we went back inside to the back of the crypt, a big Roman sarcophagus can be seen with medieval paintings of four holy bishops. Parts of their bones are kept inside the sarcophagus. In the niches on either sides of the altar, bones from people who had been buried in the church of Saint Servatius since days long gone by, have been reburied here.
Some historic basilicas in the Netherlands, Belgium and in western Germany are connected to Servatius: A great example of this is the Basilica of Saint Servatius (Sint Servaaskerk) in Maastricht. I reckon that it is among the most beautiful Romanesque, medieval and baroque monuments in the Low Countries. It’s definitely a must see once you’re in Maastricht.
When we walked our way up to the Basilica we noted that the entrance of the Basilica at the square 'Keizer Karelplein' was adorned with statues. The statue of Jesus Christ can be seen at the centre with those of Peter and Servatius on his side. The history of the Basilica is fascinating. The inhabitants of Maastricht built a small, wooden chapel on Saint Servatius’ grave. By 550, the bishops Monulfus and Gondulfus had this simple chapel replaced by a stone church, which was proudly called ‘Magnum Templum’. It’s assumed that the Vikings destroyed it in 880. Around the year 1000 the church was rebuilt. On May 14th, a day after the holiday of Saint Servatius, H.H. Pope John Paul II visited the Church of Saint Servatius. During his visit, the pope declared to have elevated the Church to Basilica.
The outside quiet imposing and the inside a storehouse with tradition, history and culture. Here Maastricht cherishes its greatest treasures, the shrine of St. Servaas; the golden house that contains part of the skeleton of the first bishop of the Low Countries. The largest bell in the Netherlands hangs in the Southern Tower and weighs 7000 kg. The crypt dates back to the 11th century.
The St Servaas Church is built at the grave of St Servatius who was buried there in 384. First there was a wooden chapel, replaced by a several stone churches. After the church was destroyed in the 9th century, the rebuilding of a proper pilgrim´s church with galleries round the grave of St Servatius started around 1000.
You can also have a look in the treasury room, where you can have a look at the treasures of St. Servaas, containing a part of the skeleton of Saint Servatius, the first bishop of the Netherlands. There are also other relics like a pectoral cross, a key, a crosier and a pilgrim’s staff ( 11th century) and an unique collection of silk fabrics (starting from the 6th century).
The opening hours are daily from 10.00 am - 05.00 pm. The basilica is daily open at the same time as the treasure-house, though visiting the basilica is not possible during a service. The admission fee for adults is € 3,50.
The entrance to the Basilic is limited and charged by an entrance fee.
You can always enter the small chapel at the right side - worthwhile to visit.
Maastricht buildings didn't suffer that much from the German invasion and bombings during WW II - therefore the glass windows remain original.
Detail of the inner garden.
On the left but not pictured, you will see a big bell named "Grand Mére" reminding me at the "Klokke Roeland" in my hometown Ghent.
The Basilic is where Maastricht cherishes its greatest treasures: the shrine of St. Servaas (also called: Chest of Emergency )
The entrance of the Basilica at the square 'Keizer Karelplein' is adorned with statues. The statue of Jesus Christ can be seen at the centre with those of Peter and Servatius on his side. The arches hold the twelve apostles who are leaning on four great prophets from the Old Testament
This church is the ancient sanctuary of St. Salvator and Peter and one of the two Romanesque churches in Maastricht. It is also the cathedral of the town. It is built above the grave of St. Servatius, the first bishop of the Netherlands, who died here in 384. The heart of this medieval cruciform basilica dates from c. 1000 and the crypts from 11th and 12th century. In the 14th and 15th century the cathedral was considerably enlarged. In the inner courtyard the visitor can admire the largest bell in the Netherlands. It weights 7000 kg, and it is called the “Grandmother”. Great treasures can be seen in the treasure of St.Servatius Basilica: the shrine of St.Servaas, the Golden House containing part of his skeleton, the cup of St.Servaas dated from the 4th century and many more valuable objects.
The treasure house is open daily 10am-5pm. November-March on Sunday 12:30-5.
Ticket: 3 euros.
On Vrijthof square, the Saint Servaas cathedral stands dominating the area with its austere and sturdy presence. A marvelous example of romanic Art it offers a maginificent view from a multitude of angles. Withing its walls it harbours, among others a treasure chamber containing dozens of relic shrines and other religious artifacts. In the inner courtyard a big bronze bell can be admired. In a sort of basement section an excavation site has been left uncovered to be visited as well. Separated from then actual site by a series of glass panes people can have an idea of what was to be found below the floor of the church.