Saint Servatius, patron saint of Maastricht
About the life of Saint Servatius little is known with certainty. There is no doubt that Servatius existed. He died in Maastricht, traditionally in 384, but this fact has not been confirmed by historical sources.
According to tradition he would have been the last bishop of Tongeren, the capital of the Tungri, and the first bishop of Maastricht. Servatius is the patron saint of Maastricht and one of the Ice Saints as well. His feast day is May 13.
Throughout the centuries many legends, sometimes mixed with historical facts, arose about Servatius and many miracles are attributed to him.
The basis for Servatius’ hagiography is laid by Gregory of Tours in the late 6th century and is based on oral tradition. According to Gregory of Tours Servatius lived mid 5th century but calculations in later centuries indicated that the year Servatius died could have been in the 4th century, probably 384. Starting from the 19th century, the year 384 is generally accepted.
Servatius’ remains are buried in Maastricht. Pilgrimage to Servatius’ grave started already in the 6th century. There was initially a small wooden memorial church built over his grave. Over the centuries this gradually grew to the current Basilica of Saint Servatius.
Throughout the centuries the grave and the many relics in the church treasury have attracted a large number of pilgrims. Famous is the seven-yearly pilgrimage, a tradition that already started in the 14th century and, with an interruption from 1632 until the 19th century, still continues today.
© photos: Bea and Dick Hoeks-De Laat, 2007
Read more about Saint Servatius (in Dutch) or about the project Places of Pilgrimage