Maastricht, city (1994 pop. 118,102), capital of Limburg prov., SE Netherlands, on the Maas (Meuse) River and on the Albert Canal system. It is an important rail and river transportation point and an industrial center. Manufactures include plastic ware, ceramics, building materials, fabricated metal products, consumer goods, and food processing. The Maas was forded in Roman times; the city derives its name from the Latin Mosae Trajectum [Maas ford]. An episcopal center from 382 to 721, Maastricht has the oldest church in the Netherlands, the Cathedral of St. Servatius, founded in the 6th cent. In 1284 the city came under the dual domination of the dukes of Brabant and the prince-bishop of Liege. The city was a strategic fortress and suffered many sieges. The Spanish under Alessandro Farnese captured it (1579) from the Dutch rebels during the revolt of the Netherlands and massacred a large part of the population. In 1632 the Dutch under Prince Frederick Henry recovered the city. It later fell into French hands during the wars of the 17th and 18th cent., notably in 1673 and 1794. A historic city, Maastricht has many old structures including the Romanesque Church of Our Lady (11th cent.), a 13th-century bridge across the Maas, and the town hall (17th cent.). In 1992, the Treaty of European Union (known as the Maastricht Treaty) was signed following a summit conference there. The treaty was an important step in the continuing integration of the countries of the European Union. The city is a cultural center. The district of Wijk occupies the right bank of the Maas.
In its heyday (13th - 15th centuries) Maastricht was an important and prosperous cloth-trading center. In the 15th century, it fell to the troops of Burgundy and from that time on it was ruled in quick succession by the Austrians, the Spanish and the French. The city fortress was besieged on 19 individual occasions. In 1815, Maastricht was finally ceded to the Kingdom of the Netherlands. However, the temperament and lifestyle of the people of Maastricht are more typically Belgian than Dutch. It is an easy stroll from the pier to the center of town with its attractive historic quarter, the 17th century town hall, a thermal spa and interesting churches.