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Eighteenth-century Fort Sint-Pieter gets extensive overhaul

Falls short of full restoration

Tags: Excerpts from the Windmill

MAASTRICHT, the Netherlands - A fortification built in the early years of the 18th century, and only used once for its intended purpose, will get an restorative overhaul. The stronghold in the southern part of Limburg province was constructed to repel attacks against the city. It kept French troops out in 1794.

The plans by the municipality of Maastricht and the Dutch Society for the Preservation of Nature call for an investment of some $6 million to enhance the visibility around and in the fortress.

Linked to the famed marl caves and excavations in the ‘tallest mountain’ in the country - the Sint-Pietersberg rises 111 meters above sea level - the fortress was partially dismantled late in the 19th century, as were other fortifications in and around the city. Such demolition was not always subtle and often involved explosives.

View now restricted

To emphasize the former strategic importance of the fort, and to show what has happened to the stronghold since, some demolitions will be preserved to make visitors aware of the continued history of the site. For that same reason, the work does not seek a complete restoration to the opening days of the stronghold. Fort Sint-Pieter is not going to be a replica of itself.

What will be changed in and around the fort are some of the roads, the parking lots and much of the woods around the walls. By cutting down trees, the fortress will be visible again from a distance and restore part of the unrestricted view its defenders enjoyed.

Roman stronghold

To make Fort Sint-Pieter more of a tourist attraction, new amenities such as an information centre and elevators down to the marl caves will be built. These caves were in the news in recent months when heavy rain and a broken water main flooded some of them and through erosion caused a large sinkhole in a nearby road.

Maastricht is the oldest city in the Netherlands and was an important Roman stronghold. Because of its advanced location in the southern tip of Limburg, control of the city often was a key in battles for dominating the region. In 1673, French troops took the city by shelling its walls from the top of the Sint-Pietersberg, the approximate location where thirty years later the fort was built. One of the French attackers killed storming Maastricht was musketeer D’Artagnan, officer in the First Company of the Mousquetaires du Roi and immortalized in Alexandre Dumas’ book Three Musketeers.

Work on the restoration of the fort could begin as early as this summer.