The present-day Basilica of Our Lady is probably not the first church that was built on this site. However, since no archeological research has ever been carried out inside the building, nothing certain can be said about this. The church"s site, inside the Roman castrum and adjacent to a religious shrine dedicated to the god Jupiter, suggests that the site was once occupied by a Roman temple. It is not unlikely that the town"s first church was built here and that this church in the 4th or 5th century became the cathedral of the diocese of Tongeren-Maastricht.
Some time before the year 1100 the church became a collegiate church, run by a college of canons. The canons were appointed by the prince-bishop of Liège. The provosts were chosen from the chapter of St. Lambert"s Cathedral, Liège. The chapter of Our Lady"s had around 20 canons, which made it a middle-sized chapter in the diocese of Liège. Until the end of the chapter in 1798 it maintained its strong ties with Liège. Parishioners of Our Lady"s were identified in old documents as belonging to the Familia Sancti Lamberti. It is clear that the chapter of Saint Servatius was the more powerful institution in Maastricht, with strong ties to the emperors of the Holy Roman Empire, but throughout the Middle Ages the two churches remained rivals.
Most of the present church was built in the 11th and 12th centuries. Construction of the imposing westwork started shortly after 1000 AD. In the 13th century the nave received Gothic vaults. Around 1200 the canons abandoned their communal lifestyle, after which canons" houses were built in the vicinity of the church. In the 14th century a parish church was built next to the collegiate church, so the main building could be reserved for the canons" religious duties. Of this parish church, dedicated to Saint Nicolas, very little remains as it was demolished in 1838. Apart from Saint Nicholas Church, the parish made use of three other chapels dedicated to Saint Hilarius, Saint Evergislus, and Saint Mary Minor. In the mid-16th century the present late Gothic cloisters replaced the earlier cloisters.
After the incorporation of Maastricht in the French First Republic in 1794, the town"s religious institutions were dissolved (1798). Many of the church treasures were lost during this period. The church and cloisters were used as a blacksmith shop and stables by the military garrison. This situation continued until 1837 when the church was restored to the religious practice. This coincided with the demolishing of Saint Nicholas Church and the transfer of the parish to Our Lady"s.
From 1887 to 1917 the church was thoroughly restored by well-known Dutch architect Pierre Cuypers. Cuypers basically removed everything that did not fit his ideal of a Romanesque church. Parts of the east choir, the two choir towers, and the south aisle were almost entirely rebuilt. The church was elevated to the rank of minor basilica by Pope Pius XI on 20 February 1933.
The building is largely Romanesque in style and is considered an important example of the Mosan group of churches that are characterized by massive westworks and pseudo-transepts. Our Lady"s in Maastricht indeed has a tall, massive westwork and two pseudo-transepts on each side. The westwork, built of carbonic sandstone, dates from the early 11th century and is flanked by two narrow towers with marlstone turrets. Some spolia, probably from the former Roman castrum of Maastricht, were used on the lower parts of the westwork. The nave with its transept and pseudo-transepts largely dates from the second half of the 11th century.
The church has two choirs and two crypts. The east choir dates from the 12th century and is heavily decorated with carved capitals. The crypt is a century older. During the building campaign the original plan for the eastern part of the church was abandoned and a new scheme, based on the newly finished choir of St. Lambert"s Cathedral, Liège, adopted. The current, heavily-restored choir towers are roofed with Rhenish helms of stone rather than shingling. One of the towers, named after Saint Barbara, was used for the city archives and the church treasury.
A 13th-century Gothic portal, rebuilt in the 15th century, provides access to the church as well as to the so-called Mérode chapel (or Star of the Sea chapel).References:
Thank you Paul for comment, the wrong photo is replaced now.
Third picture, copyright Jorge Franganillo is Basilica of St Servatius, also in Maastricht, but not the Basilica of Our Lady
Built around AD 90 to entertain the legionaries stationed at the fort of Caerleon (Isca), the impressive amphitheatre was the Roman equivalent of today’s multiplex cinema. Wooden benches provided seating for up to 6,000 spectators, who would gather to watch bloodthirsty displays featuring gladiatorial combat and exotic wild animals.
Long after the Romans left, the amphitheatre took on a new life in Arthurian legend. Geoffrey of Monmouth, the somewhat imaginative 12th-century scholar, wrote in his History of the Kings of Britain that Arthur was crowned in Caerleon and that the ruined amphitheatre was actually the remains of King Arthur’s Round Table.
Today it is the most complete Roman amphitheatre in Britain.