A friend wrote recently to fill me in on the background of St. Servatius, Maastricht’s patron saint. I admit that I’ve never learned much about the bishop, although I’ve visited the church on the Vrijthof Square and have seen the tomb and the relics inside.
His history is a mix of fact and legend. Born in Armenia, he may be a distant relative of both John the Baptist and Jesus Christ. He was an envoy between the Eastern and Western divisions of the Church around 350AD and was guardian of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem. During a vigil at Saint Peter’s tomb, he had a vision in which Peter forecast the destruction of the unbelieving and sinful and gave Servatius the key to the Gates of Heaven, with the power to forgive sins and to open or lock the Gates . Servatius carried the relics back to Maastricht, where he died a few days later in 384. These relics, the Noodkist ("Distress Chest"), were carried around Maastricht to protect it in times of calamity, and the “Procession of the Reliquary” is still carried out every seven years.
Most interesting to me is that Servitius is, of all things, the patron saint of foot problems and lameness (also rheumatism, rats, and mice). His statue stands two blocks from me in the middle of the Wyck; he is on the right facing the camera in my picture, and is often depicted with three wooden shoes.
Violinist André Rieu is performing his annual summer concert series in Maastricht this week: it is an event. His CDs and DVDs are everywhere; the locals love the “Waltz King”. Locally born and educated, he’s a Maastrcht icon, extravagant yet approachable.
He began playing the violin when he was five, and subsequently attended the Conservatoire Royal in Liège, the Conservatorium Maastricht, and the Music Academy in Brussels, where he won the Premier Prix. Fascinated by the waltz, he created the Maastricht Salon Orchestra and, later. the Johann Strauss Orchestra. He performs internationally, but always returns to Maastricht to give a series of summer concerts. He can be followed on Twitter and his YouTube channel.
Tickets run from 100 to 400 euros: the streets are blocked off for a block in every direction. I went over to Vrijthof Square last night to see what I could: overflow crowds sit in cafe’s watching the concert on projection televisions, screened from the actual event. Security additional gates so that we gawkers couldn’t see anything.
Elsewhere, giant television screens are set up for remote viewing around town. We joined a group at the Basin, a boat moorage and night spot north of the city. It’s amazing; hundreds of people signing and dancing and having a wonderful time until well after midnight. The music is a mixture of pop and waltz, relentlessly upbeat and occasionally kitsch, but always delivered with polished good humor and received with enthusiasm.