The Kruisherenklooster (Crosier Monastery) dates back to the fifteenth century. One of only a handful of Gothic monasteries in the Netherlands to have survived intact, it is now a design hotel.
In the Middle Ages, Maastricht was very devout. It was a pilgrim city, with a host of different monastic orders. However, the Crosiers did not yet reside in the city. Their religious centre was in Huy in Belgium. In the Netherlands, the order had two monasteries, in Cuijk and Asperen.
From 1410 onwards, the directors of all the monasteries – the priors – would gather each year in Huy for the general chapter. While on their travels, the Crosiers from Cuijk and Asperen usually stayed overnight with clergy in Maastricht.
In 1436, these priors were en route to Huy when the Heiligdomsvaart, a religious procession held every seven years, was taking place in Maastricht. Because it was so busy, there was nowhere for them to stay the night. So, the patrician Egidius van Elderen made a few houses on Kommel available. Later on, the monastery and the church were built here for the Crosiers.
The construction work was not without hitches, however. The Crosiers of Maastricht were concerned above all else with making money. They also tried to get guild craftsmen to work for them Pro Deo: for the Good Lord. First, a small ‘noodkerk’ (basic church pending a proper one) was built, with a roof of straw. In 1459, the complex was partly finished but, three years later, lightning struck, causing the steeple to collapse. The rebuilt steeple was significantly shorter. The whole monastic complex was finally completed in 1520.
The Crosiers wore a habit of white wool, over which they sported a scapular of grey or light brown fabric. Later on, this became a robe of black cloth fabric, on which was emblazoned the cross of the Crosiers, with a horizontal white and vertical red bar. These colours symbolized the water and the blood from Christ’s side after his crucifixion.
The Crosiers were very skilled at copying, binding, illustrating, and decorating books. They produced stunning manuscripts and, in their monastic bookbindery, created beautiful leather bindings, decorated with stamps in which their cross emblem was incorporated.
The order was very popular in the city, because of their tolerance and their care for their fellow human beings. They nursed the sick, particularly during the many plague epidemics. They also celebrated masses for the nuns of the Bonnenfanten convent, the Grauwzusters (Grey Sisters) and the Cellebroeders (Cellites). Consequently, the order enjoyed a lot of influence and were held in very high esteem. In the sixteenth century, most of the Crosiers came from the city itself. Many Maastricht residents wanted to be buried at the monastery.
In the sixteenth century, the monastery flourished. At that time, there were more than 25 monks. Until, that is, the Spanish arrived, in 1579. When Parma captured the city, there followed a relentless plundering of the churches and monasteries. The Kruisherenklooster was ravaged, and just one Crosier survived the siege. After a difficult recovery, in 1632 the monastery once again fell victim to conflict, when Frederick Henry, Prince of Orange tried to take back the city.
In 1673, French king Louis XIV captured the city, with an army of 40,000 soldiers. Once again, the monastery was not spared. In fact, the Crosiers were obliged to billet French soldiers in the battered monastery – although Louis did at least cough up 2,100 guilders to repair the damage.
The eighteenth century was relatively peaceful – until, in 1795, the French turned up at the city gates with their cannons to annex Maastricht. From then on, the people of Maastricht had to abide by French laws. One of those was the separation of state and church, which meant all the monasteries and chapters were dissolved. The French took possession of the Kruisherenklooster, and set up a munitions depot, barracks, and garrison bakery there. The monastery served a military purpose for nigh on a century. In 1801, the clergy were allowed back in the city, but the Crosiers never returned.
At the end of the nineteenth century, Victor de Stuers made sure that old buildings were given a fresh purpose, to ensure their survival. That's why the Rijkslandbouwproefstation (national agricultural experiment station) was set up in the wings of the monastery. For years, agricultural research was done here. The church was used for, among other things, exhibitions and gatherings and as a dole office for the unemployed. During World War II, the church was requisitioned by the German occupying forces, then by the American liberating forces and, finally, by the Nederlandse Beheersinstituut (Netherlands Property Administration Institute, set up after World War II to administer assets).
Around 1980, the municipality took over the building. The parish of Saint Servatius used it while the Basilica of Saint Servatius was undergoing large-scale restorations. Opera Zuid also used the complex for a while, as a rehearsal and storage space. The monastery itself even squatted there, briefly.
In 2000, hospitality group Camille Oostwegel opened a five-star hotel in the complex. The old architecture and decoration were combined to startling effect with modern design and art, mostly in red and white, the colours of the cross emblem of the Crosiers.
As the church is a national heritage site, all the structural elements had to be kept separate from the original structure. Because of this, the reception, lobby, bar and restaurant have been positioned above and below two false floors. Guests can dine beneath the Gothic arches of the church. A smaller intermediate floor has been set up as a reading and study room. The striking entrance is a copper tunnel, designed by Ingo Maurer.