History

From Boulogne to Cologne and from Marsna to Meerssen

Meerssen was established in a swampy area that was once part of the vast Germanic forests. Its location along the 'Via Belgica', an important Roman trade route between Boulogne sur Mer and Cologne, contributed significantly to the growth of Marsna (the Roman name for Meerssen). A 'fiery' visit by the Vikings left everything in ashes, until Charlemagne rediscovered Meerssen as an ideal retreat during his travels. Go to the Heritage House (Erfgoedhuis) to learn more about the turbulent and influential history of Meerssen.

The Romans and Via Belgica

The Romans left their cultural mark wherever they went. Examples include their language (Latin), their robust architectural style, their appearance and personal grooming habits, and their eating habits. Marsna, the Roman name for Meerssen, was no different. It was situated along the Via Belgica trade route, which ran from the French Boulogne sur Mervia to Maastricht and Heerlen via Tongeren.

With its excellent access roads, water supply, forests, and fertile land, Marsna proved to be an ideal location. As evidenced by the remains of Villa Herkenberg (currently covered in sand), Meerssen was the perfect place for the Romans. An information point can now be found where the villa once stood, providing more information about the Roman complex that once occupied this spot.

Vikings and the Treaty of Meerssen

The Vikings plundered Meerssen several times and at one time reduced the city to ashes. Meerssen later became the preferred stopover for Charlemagne (748-814), who owned a Kaiserpfalz or royal estate there. This estate may have served as a temporary residence for the king when he travelled through his extensive kingdom. In 870, the Kingdom of the Franks was divided up by Charlemagne's grandsons, an event that later became known as the Treaty of Meerssen.

Highlights

Heritage House

The Heritage House (Erfgoedhuis) introduces visitors to the beautiful and exclusive culture and nature of Meerssen and the surrounding area. It hosts exhibitions about Meerssen's history, as well as art exhibits and lectures on a wide range of themes. The Heritage House also boasts a Corinthian capital (180-220 AD), one of the largest Roman treasures in the region. The capital was discovered in 1871 at the Roman Villa Herkenberg.

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Marsna bronze relief

The bronze relief Marsna (the Roman name for Meerssen) adorns the facade of Maison de Ville, the entrance to the local government building on the market square. The relief was created by artist Wil van der Laan (Bunde, municipality of Meerssen). The four panels of the artwork depict elements from the rich history of the municipality, including key figures and events such as Charlemagne, the Treaty of Meerssen, Queen Gerberga, the miracle of the Eucharist and the miracle of the fire. The meandering Geul river is the link that connects each panel.

The Via Belgica through Meerssen

The Via Belgica will introduce you to a side of South Limburg you've never seen before, starting in Meerssen. Follow the route and discover the rich Roman heritage. Put on your walking boots and retrace the footsteps of the Romans. Along the way, take in the stunning views of the landscape the Romans left behind.

More about Meerssen

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