5 kop

Vief Köp round tower and The 1638 Treason

Before 1638, the Vief Köp (five heads) round tower was called the Drie Duiven (three doves). Its new name had been coined by locals following a macabre spectacle: it was on this site that five 'traitors to the city' were gruesomely beheaded. Their heads were placed on the parapet of the tower, facing the enemy and visible to everyone who approached the city.

  • Maastricht's first city wall was erected in 1229, and was the improved successor of an earth mound dating from 1180. A century later, the second city wall was built around it, and the Drie Duiven tower was part of it. This was a solid, round tower, from which you could look out over and guard the area to the south of the city.

    Eighty Years’ War and other unrest

    The Eighty Years’ War raged from 1568-1648, as the Northern Netherlands rose up against the Spanish king's rule. The actual uprising lasted until 1581, when the Northern Netherlands split from the rest of the Rijk with a declaration  of independence. From then on, Maastricht formed part of the Spanish Netherlands.

  • In 1638, Spanish troops were encamped in nearby Visé, and were trying to get Maastricht back into the hands of the Spanish. But they couldn't do this unaided; they needed help from inside the city. Two Maastricht residents were keen to assist: brewer Jans Lansmans and Claude de la Court.

    Suddenly in possession of large sums of money, De La Court went on a spending spree. This drew attention to him, so the city's commander Joachim van Goltsteyn had the men arrested. They then nabbed a few priests for good measure, although some of them had very little, if anything to do with this betrayal. A number of priests were severely tortured to force a confession.

    Nine people were condemned to death by quartering or beheading. The heads of Father Vinck, Brother Nottijn, the brewer Lansmans, the deserter De La Court, and the mason Caters were stuck on spikes and exhibited on the Drie Duiven tower. This was how the military rulers in Maastricht dealt with ‘traitors to the city,’ and they wanted everyone to know it. The rulers had no remorse in putting two Roman Catholic clergy on display in this manner. Since this execution, the people of Maastricht have called this tower the Vief Köp (Five Heads).

  • The city's commander, who ruled the city and played a key role in the 1638 Treason, was a man of the state, a Protestant, as were all the members of the court martial who passed sentence on the accused. The brutal handling of this treason had little, therefore, to do with law enforcement. First and foremost, it was an expression of the military elite's hatred of Catholic religious orders. It was never even established whether treason had actually been committed. Nowhere was it stipulated that Maastricht belonged to the United Provinces of the Netherlands, yet from the state perspective, of course, collaborating with the Spanish was high treason.

    The tower in the city wall behind Vief Köp is named after Father Vinck. He was said to have been imprisoned there, although that was not true. The clergy were incarcerated and tortured in the cellars of the then town hall, In de Lantscroon on Grote Straat.

  • The Vief Köp tower was restored in 2018. A gun carriage was placed on top of the tower, with a cast iron cannon on it. Restoration specialist Schakel and Schrale gifted the city an apt artwork: a wooden palisade with five pointed stakes, made from a drawing of the original. This artwork references the atrocities of 1638 and the five heads that were displayed on the tower. An information board describes the circumstances surrounding The Treason.

    In March 2019, nearly 20 metres of the city wall immediately alongside the tower collapsed, ending up in the lake.

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