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Wittem is very small. A castle, a big monastery, a few houses and that's about it. The castle was there first, and it was one of the owners that founded the monastery. It was a Baroque complex then, but the acquisition of parts of the remains of St. Gerardus Majella, a very popular saint, turned the place into a place of pilgrimage. (That's the bad thing about being a saint I guess, everybody wants a piece of you.) The church was rebuilt several times and from the outside is only partly visible in its original state. Oh, and the rest of the village? A shop selling religious stuff and a bar/restaurant serving St. Gerardus beer, that's about it. The beer's OK actually, and you can buy it in shops and supermarkets in the area too.
Updated Oct 9, 2003
(A seperate page about this place is under construction)
What was once a convent for noble women, a stift or minster, is now an expensive hotel. How expensive? Well, taking along a small pet will already cost you 30 euros a day. It's with tricks like that that a hotel can stay exclusive. Of course it won't cost you anything if you just admire the buildings from outside.
But the church is still a church, although a parish church now. And a magnificent church it is too! It was built in honour of St. Gerlachus who is also buried here. It has probably the most impressive Baroque interior of The Netherlands, with just about every inch of the walls and ceiling painted. There's also a small museum about the saint and the convent. Nice place for a short stop. Houthem has a station so you can come by train, but I walked from Valkenburg myself, as that seemed quicker than waiting for the next train. And it was. Quite a pleasant walk too. After that I still had enough energy left to walk to Meerssen.
Updated Oct 19, 2004
Yes, the name of this village does look French, doesn't it? Only it isn't pronounced in the French way, and it probably comes from "limus", the Latin word for mud. This village thus was named after mud. Apart from mud, in this village you should try to find this chapel, which is near a castle, which itself is private property and cannot be visited. Just a few meters to the east and you're in Germany. This chapel originally was a church and is the best preserved example of the oldest surviving type of church in The Netherlands (how's that for a sentence eh?), a small one-aisled building with a rectangular choir and no tower. There must have been dozens of such churches in this area alone. Inside are some controversial 20th-century wall-paintings that you can 'admire' should you be able to get in. I didn't bother to get the key, but do regret my lazyness.
Updated Oct 19, 2004
Arcen has this medieval watermill, which is currently used as a distillery, as well as a castle famous for its gardens. Both can be visited. Elsewhere in Arcen there's also a large brewery with on the other side of the street a bar where its beers can be sampled.
Updated Apr 10, 2003
A church such as this can only be found in this province. It stands on the location of a Francian fortress and was built from the ruble of Roman buildings in the area as well as stones from the river Maas. Originally this small Romanesque church had a westtower and a rectangular choir. In 1515 the Maas reached a very high level and the tower collapsed. A new Gothic tower was built on the eastern side later, at the back of the choir. Unlike the rest of the church, this new tower was made of brick.
In 1916 a restoration started. New windows were added to the nave and all later brickwork additions to the choir and nave, like buttresses, were replaced by new ones in natural stone. Responsible architect Cuypers also added an extension to the west-side of the church. The people of the village donated many stones from the river, which they had collected through the ages. The outside walls of the new extension are covered with these stones. As space is limited, the two big buttresses that support the new choir each have a passage.The hill is protected by a wall of concrete, covered with bricks. Walking around the church gave me a feeling as if I was in the fairytale part of the Efteling amusement parc.
Updated Jun 18, 2003
In the 8th century a monastery with church was founded, halfway down the road between Utrecht and Echternach. Later this monastery became a convent, and after that a wordly minster for noblewomen, a so-called Stift. The church was destroyed by fire in the 11th century, and was replaced by a new one. In the 12th century a westwork was added, similar to that of the church of the minster in Essen, Germany. Like the example in Essen, this St. Salvator's church had a closed westwork consisting of a massive-looking central tower with an octagonal spire, with lower square stair-towers on either side. Inside this westwork was a choir.
A rare feature of this church is the crypt behind the choir which is partly built above the ground. This crypt again is almost an exact copy of the one in Essen and contains the remains of Carolingian king Swentibold. The crypt and the choir are probably the oldest parts of the church.
Another peculiar thing about the church is the width of the transept, which is bigger than that of the rest of the church. Again, this is very similar to the church in Essen.
From 1885 to 1890 the church was restored by P.J.H. Cuypers who gave the church much of its current look. The westwork was changed to Cuypers' own taste; the stair-towers were heightened, while the originally higher central part of the westwork was not, and received a simple saddle-roof instead of a replica of the vanished spire.
The church is now dedicated to St. Amelberga, the first abbess of the convent.
Written Feb 25, 2003
Kasteel Amstenrade dates from the 17th century but in ca. 1780 was rebuilt in Southern Netherlands Classical style according to a design by architect Bartholomé Digneffe. The plans were never completed, one of the wings is still missing, but the castle is worth a look anyway. From a distance that is, as the castle is private property of count Lambert d'Ansembourg and cannot be visited. You can take a walk through the gardens though. Other sights in Amstenrade include the neo-Gothic church and at least one of those typical closed farms.
Updated Aug 3, 2003
The town of Thorn is quite a tourist attraction, with many old buildings, most of which are painted white (for touristic reasons, not historic ones!). The church however is the most important sight of all.
Built as the church of a powerful convent that became the centre of a small sovereign state, this church has been changed from a Romanesque church to an almost completely Gothic church, and became a simple parish church after the state was disbanded by the French. It is the only surviving building of the abbey's complex.
Both outside and inside the building gives an indication of the former wealth of Thorn. Of the original Romanesque church, built in the second half of the 12th century, only the lower side of the tower and the crypt remain. The rest of the church was rebuilt in Gothic style in several stages, from the 13th until the 16th century. Despite this long period, the church is remarkably consistent in style and is a highlight of the regional Maasland Gothic style (see Gothicism). The interior however is mostly Baroque. A restoration by P.J.H. Cuypers (I mention his name a lot, I know. I can't help it, he's just so important!) from 1860 until 1880 among others resulted in the completion of the original Romanesque tower with a new, neo-Gothic upper part made of brick and marl.
Updated Aug 19, 2004
About 800 000 years ago the river Maas streamed through the Limburg landscape over the Örenberg. The water brought 8 meters of gravel, sand and clay at this point. The water was also very rich in calcium. The calcium dripped into the layer of gravel and sand. Eventualy turning into limestone, and with the gravel and sand in it it looks like natural concrete. (Stumbling upon this place during a walk, i actually thought it were concrete remains of a wall or something) The rare sediment is called Örenberg conglomerate after the place it was found. They mined the area and the mine collapsed. The piece you find here are put here as a geological monument.
Written May 10, 2005
In our flat country we call every elevation a mountain. In Limburg they have the highest mountains of our country. In Vaals is the Vaalserberg with 322 meter the absolute recordbreaker.
In the picture the St Pietersberg near Maastricht (170m)
Written May 10, 2005
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