is a municipality
located in the Belgian province
. The city is located on the river Maas
(or Meuse), bordering the Netherlands
. The Maaseik municipality includes the town of Maaseik proper and the old communes of Neeroeteren
The history of Maaseik begins as Aldeneik (“old oak”) around 700, when Adelard, a local Frankish personality, built a Benedictine monastery along the Meuse. His two daughters, Herlindis and Relindis, both became abbesses of the monastery and eventually became saints. The religious center of Aldeneik soon became the focal point of a small community. The monastery suffered heavy destruction by the Normans in the 9th century. Around 950, emperor Otto I gave the monastery to the Bishop of Liège, who delegated the administrative tasks to a local chapter of canons.
Just a few kilometers south-west of Aldeneik, a new community started to grow, which became a separate parish in 1244. This community was known as Nieuw-Eyck
(“new oak”) and eventually Maaseik. As a strategic location for the County of Loon
to which it belonged, the city surrounded itself with defensive walls and ditches. These fortifications were dismantled by Charles the Bold
in 1467, after an uprising of the city burghers against the Prince-Bishop of Liège
16th century until now
The walls were built again in the 16th century and strengthened by Vauban
in the following century. After the French
retreat in 1675, however, the military installations were gradually taken down. Today, only the names of the old city gates survive (e.g., Bospoort, Maaspoort
). The 16th and beginning of the 17th century were economically profitable to Maaseik thanks to its advantageous location between Liège and the sea. The commercial activity remained strong until the second half of the 17th century, when the regional power of Liège started to fade. The fire that destroyed a third of the city in 1684 accelerated the decline. During all that time, Maaseik was still a dependence of the chapter of canons in Aldeneik. Just before the French Revolution
, no less than six religious orders
were still present in the city.
The Industrial Revolution of the 19th century seems to have bypassed Maaseik. The city centre still retained its architectural unity until World War I. Today, the city is mostly a regional centre offering shopping, educational, and medical services to the surrounding communities.
- The Sint-Catharinakerk houses the oldest Gospel Book of the Benelux, the Codex Eyckensis, which dates from the 7th or 8th century.
- The main market square features a statue of the city’s most famous sons, Jan and Hubert van Eyck. A permanent exhibition on their work can be seen at the nearby Franciscan cloister, which also houses a scale model of the city as it was in 1672.
- The Museactron includes a regional archaeological museum, a pharmacy museum, and a bakery museum.
- Twelve of the original sixteen watermills around the city are in very good shape and still make flour or saw wood.