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Maastricht

Maastricht (mäsˈtrĭkhtˌ) [key], city (1994 pop. 118,102), capital of Limburg prov., SE Netherlands, on the Maas (Meuse) River and on the Albert Canal system. It is an important rail and river transportation point and an industrial center. Manufactures include plastic ware, ceramics, building materials, fabricated metal products, consumer goods, and food processing.

The Maas was forded in Roman times; the city derives its name from the Latin Mosae Trajectum [Maas ford]. An episcopal center from 382 to 721, Maastricht has the oldest church in the Netherlands, the Cathedral of St. Servatius, founded in the 6th cent. In 1284 the city came under the dual domination of the dukes of Brabant and the prince-bishop of Liège.

Maastricht was a strategic fortress and suffered many sieges. The Spanish under Alessandro Farnese captured it (1579) from the Dutch rebels during the revolt of the Netherlands and massacred a large part of the population. In 1632 the Dutch under Prince Frederick Henry recovered the city. It later fell into French hands during the wars of the 17th and 18th cent., notably in 1673 and 1794. The Treaty of European Union (known as the Maastricht Treaty), an important step in the continuing integration of the countries of the European Union, was signed there in 1992.

Among Maastricht's many historic structures are the Romanesque Church of Our Lady (11th cent.), a 13th-century bridge across the Maas, and the town hall (17th cent.). The city is a cultural center, and hosts an annual international fine art fair. The district of Wijk occupies the right bank of the Maas.

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

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