Maestricht (Dutch, Maastricht), a city of the Netherlands, capital of the province of Limburg, on the Maas, 18 m. W. N. W. of Aix-la-Chapelle; pop. in 1870, 28,840, mostly Roman Catholics. The river, which is spanned by an ancient stone bridge 500 ft. long, divides the city into two parts, the smaller portion on the right bank constituting the suburb Wyk. The city is well built, and the finest squares are the market place and the Vrijhof or parade ground. It is famous as one of the strongest fortresses of Europe, and as the principal defence of Holland. The works consist of walls, ditches, and detached bastions, and of the citadel, built in 1701 on the Pietersberg, on the right bank of the river. The surrounding land can be easily laid under water by opening the sluices. The subterranean quarries, situated under the Pietersberg, cover an area of 13 by 6 m., and contain about 16,000 passages, 20 to 50 ft. high and 12 broad. The galleries are supported by thousands of massive pillars, forming a labyrinth dangerous to enter without a guide. The rock resembles chalk, and is ill adapted for building. The caverns abound with fossils, and the bones of a colossal lizard-like reptile, more than 20 ft. long, are found here, and known as the monitor.
The most notable public buildings are the town hall, a handsome edifice with a public library and Flemish paintings, and the church of St. Gervais, with five towers and the shrine of that saint, a fine doorway and nave, a "Descent from the Cross" by Vandyke, and a monument of Charlemagne finished in 1845. The interior of this church was restored in 1860. Prominent among the other numerous places of worship, including several for Calvinists, is the church of Notre Dame, with two towers and an ancient crypt. Among the principal schools is an athenaeum. Public gardens were laid out in 1838. Besides an arsenal, there is a military magazine, and the garrison generally consists of 2,000 soldiers. The principal manufactures are leather, cloth, soap, and rifles. There are brandy distilleries and breweries. Tobacco, madder, and chicco-ry are raised in the vicinity. - Maestricht suffered greatly in resisting Spanish domination. After expelling the Spaniards, the city was immediately reconquered by the duke of Alva, Oct. 20, 1576. Having risen again, it was in March, 1579, invested by Alexander Farnese, who was repulsed early in April. He then built a chain of forts around the city, and compelled its surrender, but with great loss of life on both sides, followed by a dreadful massacre of the inhabitants, in which 6,000 men, women, and children perished.
Walloon settlers and vagabonds took the place of the former population, and it was not till 1632 that the city was retaken by Prince Frederick Henry of Orange. It was confirmed to the states general by the treaty of Westphalia (1648). In 1673 it was taken by Louis XIV. In 1748 it surrendered to Marshal Saxe, and in 1794 to Kleber. During the French occupation under the republic and the empire it became the capital of the department of Meuse-Inferieure.