Wyck: kruittoren

The Wycker Kruittoren (Wyck Gunpowder Tower) was built in 1318, as part of the first stone city wall around Wyck. It stood beside the Meuse for 550 years until, in the face of much public outcry, it was demolished in 1868.  The historic tower blocked the view of the new neo-Gothic Sint Martinuskerk, so the Wycker Kruittoren had to go.

  • Built in 1318, the Wycker Kruittoren (Wyck Gunpowder Tower) was part of the first stone wall encircling Wyck, on the eastern bank of the Meuse. Wyck’s first ramparts were built in 1180 and, like Maastricht’s across the river, they were fashioned from earth. There were just two gates: the German gate (or Hoogbruggepoort) by the main route to the east, and the Maartenspoort on the northern edge. The Maartenspoort was rebuilt on at least five occasions, each time in a new location. Wyck also had two big towers on the Meuse: the Lambrechtsrondeel round tower to the south-west, and Woutersrondeel to the north-west, just 20 metres from the Meuse. The latter was the original name of the Wycker Kruittoren. In the chronicles, we also encounter the name Groten Toren, Ronde Toren, or Toren bij Sint Maarten (big tower, round tower, or tower by Saint Martins).

    Sint Maartenspoort gezien vanuit het noordoosten
  • The Wycker Kruittoren was robust, and measured 10 metres across and 20 metres in height. The walls of Namur hardstone were 2 metres thick. On the ground floor was an entrance on the south side. Around 1400, the top was roofed with straw. Later on, a slate roof was added. The vaulted ceiling of the tower was marlstone and the floors were of wood. The steps to the first floor were on the outside of the tower. From the first floor, a spiral stairway led to a separate tower above. On the second floor was a gallery with embrasures.

    De kruittoren nabij de Sint Martinuskerk circa1905
  • In 1867, Maastricht lost its status as a stronghold. By that time, the locals wanted to rid themselves of the trappings of a fortified city. So, the city walls and gates were demolished, and the ditches filled in. The Wycker Kruittoren, however, remained standing. It wasn't getting in anybody's way, and wasn't included in any demolition orders. Until, that is, the Sint Martinuskerk was rebuilt. Years of neglect had left the centuries-old Roman church derelict. It was too late for restoration. At the expense of the public purse, Pierre Cuypers built a new Sint Martinuskerk. When the new church was complete, it turned out that the Wycker Kruittoren was blocking the view of the neo-Gothic building, so the 550-year-old tower had to go.

     

  • A number of Maastricht residents were fiercely opposed to the tower’s demise, among them Alexander Schaepkens and Victor de Stuers, the Maastricht founder of the Dutch historical monuments association. The church council wanted to demolish the tower for fear that it would once again be used to store gunpowder. In those days, the tower was again owned by the Ministry of War and, in light of the impending Franco-German war, there was talk of tensions in this region of Europe. It all boiled down to finances in the end, and even the sale of the tower was discussed. Pastor Van Laer wrote letters and used his influential contacts to seal the tower's fate.

Fun fact

All that now remains of the Wycker Kruittoren are old photos, drawings, and stories. The tower provided the model for the rebuilding of the Pater Vincktoren in Faliezusterspark in 1906. Architect Willem Sprenger was advised and supported by Victor de Stuers.

Author: Eric Wetzels

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