Meerssen is situated in the south of the Netherlands and located to the north of the neighbouring city of Maastricht. The two city centres are no more than six kilometres apart. The same distance separates Meerssen from Valkenburg.
Meerssen can be easily reached from the A2 motorway between Maastricht and Eindhoven, and the A79 motorway Maastricht-Heerlen; or by railway – there is a train station both in Meerssen and Bunde; by waterway through the Meuse river and the Juliana-canal; or by air (Maastricht-Aachen Airport).
Thanks to its central geographical location in the “country without borders”, Meerssen offers many opportunities for day trips to Liège, Aix-la-Chapelle, Cologne, Vianden, Clervaux, Echternach and Givet. The Belgian Ardennes or the German Eifel will provide the perfect challenge for the trained cyclist!
Meerssen was already inhabited long before our era. It was only much later however, that Meerssen truly entered the annals of history. In the year 751 the Carolingian dynasty founded a palatinate and built a chapel in Meerssen, as an exact replica of the palatinate at Aix-la-Chapelle. Both palatinates filled leading positions in Western Europe at the time. The Carolingian kings, who succeeded the illustrious emperor Charlemagne, took residence in the palatinate of Meerssen.
Two important treaties were later signed in Meerssen: A first treaty in the year 847 by which the three kings who had inherited Charlemagne’s empire pledged assistance to each other in the battle against the approaching Vikings. The treaty of Meerssen in the year 870, laying down the division of Lotharingia between Charles the Bald and Louis the German.
In 928 the German king Henry the Fowler offered the palatinate of Meerssen as a dowry for his daughter Gerberga when she married Gislebert of Lotharingia. When Gislebert died, Gerberga married the French king Louis IV d’Outremer in 939. She became a widow again in 954 and in 968 she bestowed the palatinate to the Benedictine Abbey of Reims. From that moment on Meerssen became known as a deanery, benefiting from local immunity. The canons of the secular chapter led the deanery until 1134, when the secular chapter was replaced by the ecclesiastical chapter, consisting of monks from Reims. By then the chapel of the palatinate had been enlarged into a Roman church which could accommodate both monks and parishioners. In 1320 difficulties between monks and parishioners led to the creation of a Gothic choir in the building, reserved for the monks. The church was later entirely rebuilt in Gothic style. The deanery was destroyed after the French revolution. The Basilica of Meerssen, as the church is now known, is considered one of the most beautiful examples of gothic architecture in the Netherlands. A jewel not to be missed!
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