building history

Our building: a Franciscan monastery. The Regional Historic Center Limburg is located at the corner of the Sint Pieterstraat and ´Achter de oude minderbroeders´. It is no coincidence that this last street name means ´Behind the old Franciscans'. The original Franciscan monastery can still be seen in our building complex. With the permission of the Bishop of Liege in 1234 these Franciscans, locally called 'minderbroeders', settled in several houses on the Sint Pieterstraat. At the time, this was a new order, first established in Italy by the Holy Franciscus. They chose for absolute poverty as a way of life.

history Franciscan monastery

On November 8, 1996, HRH Prince Willem-Alexander officially opened the newly renovated State Archives Limburg. Since then, we are pleased to make use of a building in which old and new have been brought together in both harmonious and contrasting ways.




from monastery to arsenal

from monastery to arsenal


Due to many generous donations from the citizens of Maastricht, in 1300 the Franciscans were ready to begin building a church. This church in late gothic style, where our public services are now housed, is now an easily recognizable monument in the center of Maastricht. The current complex is the result of radical renovations in the years 1939-1941 and again in the period 1991-1996. It was not until the 15th century that the choir of the church was completed. However in 1485 the church was again in ruins. It was probably then that the restoration work first began, where the relieving arches and buttresses were built and the monastery constructed. After the conquest of the city by Spanish troops in 1579, reconstruction began in order to restore the great damage suffered by the church during the war.


When the troops of Frederik Hendrik conquered Maastricht in 1632, it meant the end of the Franciscan monastery. In 1638, Father Vink and the others (forming together the Five Heads or 'Vief Köp') were convicted and beheaded for treason. They were found to be knowledgeable of a plot to surrender the city to the Spaniards. In the following year, the Franciscan 'minderbroeders' were forced to leave the city. After they had left, the church was turned into an arsenal until 1867. The monastery buildings had several uses, including a reformed orphanage (1640-1690), a military hospital (1685-1798), a prison (until 1917) and even a sauerkraut factory.


archives and library

It was at the beginning of 1879 that state architect Jacobus van Lokhorst was assigned to reconstruct the Franciscan church as archives and library. Architect Pierre Cuypers made plans for a complete restoration of the church. During the restoration work, the seventeenth century cupola, the Star of the Sea Chapel (Sterre der Zeekapel) presented somewhat of a problem. According to Cuypers, the Baroque cupola in ´Jesuit style´ clashed with the gothic character of the church. With the permission of the Minister of Foreign Affairs, the cupola was dismantled in 1880 and the arches of the chapel ceiling were rebuilt in gothic style.


By the end of 1881, a section of the church was taken to be used for archives. In december, the archives from the State Archives were moved from the Lenculenstraat to the Sint Pieterstraat, accompanied by the city archives and the Maastricht Library three years later in 1884. Also in 1884, the depots and office spaces were all equipped with furniture, specially designed in neo-gothic style. Today some of these pieces such as cabinets, tables and chairs can still be seen in the Star of the Sea Chapel (Sterre der Zeekapel). The monastery buildings remained furnished as a prison until 1917, when the Tapijn prison was established. Since then, the monastery complex has also served as a sauerkraut factory, the workshop of artist Charles Vos and a work place for the blind and people recovering from TBC.


In the 1930s there were repeated protests against the overcrowdedness and neglect of the buildings. After a year of searching for funds, in 1939 the national archives 'Panhuysen' at the time was finally able to lay the first stone of the restoration and expansion of the archives. With the outbreak of the war, the building and especially the furnishing of the archives were often delayed. It wasn't until the end of 1941 that the work was completed. In december, the State Archives of Limburg discretely occupied the buildings. The monastery buildings had become so damaged during the war that the original south and east wings had to be completely torn down. The wing along the Sint Pieterstraat was reconstructed to its previous condition of the eighteenth century. After the war, the Franciscan church remained furnished for a long time as archive depot with beautiful neo-gothic cabinets. By the beginning of 1962, the cupolas were restored and a more modern archive establishment was installed in the buttresses.


fusion of old and new

Since 1980, plans were being made to expand the State Archives of Limburg. Other locations in Maastricht were considered, such as Randwyck, where the archives might be better situated. Luckily, in 1984, the decision was made to realise the expansion at the existing location on the Sint Pieterstraat, under the motto: to use a monument is to maintain it. During the most recent restoration of the Franciscan church (1995-1996), the choir and underground auditorium were built. The central nave of the church and its buttresses were furnished as the study hall.


The new underground archive depots were built beneath the rear courtyard. Right next to the Franciscan church, there are three underground layers of depots reaching a depth of 10 meters. Remarkably, the lowest of these depots is one level below the Jeker riverbed, meaning that the Jeker runs just above it. In the autumn of 1994, the new depots were ready to house the archives and collections in sliding shelves. A complex system maintains an ideal climate in the depots, with constant temperature and humidity. The maximum capacity of the depots is 25.3 km. Currently the shelves are stocked with 18 km worth of archives and collections.