Sint Pietersberg (Mount Saint Peter) is on the south side of Maastricht. It is a hill between the Meuse and Jeker rivers, but we call it a 'mountain' in Dutch. Sint Pietersberg sits at the northern end of a limestone plateau that runs well into Belgium. The limestone (marl) has created a unique substrate.
Sint Pietersberg is mostly a nature reserve, with a huge limestone quarry on its southern side. The area is made up of limestone grassland, with unique flora. Nature is managed in a very targeted way: no fertilizers are used, and the land is grazed by sheep. The result is a unique nature reserve. And all within walking distance of the centre of Maastricht!
On the western slope of Sint Pietersberg sits part of the village of Sint-Pieter, which is also home to the monastery of the Franciscan Observants.
Sint Pietersberg is a challenge for athletes. Cycling races are frequently held on its steep western slopes. The course of the Observantenloop race also runs over the mountain.
On the southern section of Sint Pietersberg are the ruins of Caestert castle. The exact year of its construction is not known, but the tree rings on the oak foundation piles indicate a date of 31 BC. It is possible, therefore, that this fortification was built by the Eburones, the original inhabitants of this region.
At that time, one of the routes from Maastricht to Liège ran over Sint Pietersberg. To the south of the city, the road climbed the mountain and, once it reached
In the Middle Ages, Lichtenberg Castle was constructed on the west side of Sint Pietersberg. Initially, it was owned by Maastricht families, and later by the Eynatten and Schaesberg families. The castle was laid to ruin during one of the sieges of the city. However, it is unclear in which year this happened. In the time of the French, it was seized and sold. In the late nineteenth century, the owner and the tenant of the castle farm had a disagreement, which resulted in the tenant leaving to set up a new farm: the Zonneberg farmstead.
During the siege of Maastricht in 1673, the city came under fire from Sint Pietersberg. So, in 1701, soldier and engineer Daniël Wolff van Dopff decided to build a fort on the northernmost tip: Fort Sint Pieter. The fortress remained in use until it was decommissioned in 1867. Since then, it has been a tourist destination.
In 1926, Dutch cement producer Eerste Nederlandsche Cementindustrie (ENCI) was given permission to excavate part of Sint Pietersberg. The permits were repeatedly renewed, with the result that a substantial chunk of the southern half of the mountain has been excavated. The top layers that ENCI removed in order to reach the marl were stacked up, artificially creating the Observant, the highest point on the mountain. Marl quarrying was stopped in 2018 and, in 2019, ENCI decommissioned the furnace. In 2020, the cement factory also shut in the quarry, and the entire area is now being restructured.