Limburg (Netherlands)

Limburg (Netherlands)
—  Province  —


Coat of arms
Anthem: In 't Bronsgroen Eikenhout
Location of Limburg in the Netherlands
Country Netherlands
Inclusion 1839
Capital Maastricht
 – Queen's Commissioner Léon Frissen (Limburg is the only province in the Netherlands that calls the queen's commissioner a governor.)
 – Land 2,153 km2 (831.3 sq mi)
 – Water 56 km2 (21.6 sq mi)
Area rank 9th
Population (2006)
 – Land 1,131,938
 – Rank 6th
 – Density 525.7/km2 (1,361.7/sq mi)
 – Density rank 4th
ISO 3166 code NL-LI
Religion (2003) Roman Catholic 78%
Protestant 2%
Others 5%
Irreligion 15%

Limburg ([ˈlɪmˌbʏrx] ( listen)) (Dutch and Limburgish: (Nederlands-)Limburg) is the southernmost of the twelve provinces of the Netherlands. It is located in the southeastern part of the country and bordered by the province of Gelderland to the north, Germany to the east, Belgium to the south and part of the west, and the Dutch province of North Brabant partly to the west. Its capital is Maastricht.

Limburg has a highly distinct character. The social and economic trends which affected the province in recent decades generated a process of change and renewal which has enabled Limburg to transform its national peripheral location into a highly globalized regional nexus, linking the Netherlands to the Ruhr metro area and the southern part of the Benelux region. A less appreciated consequence of this international gateway location is rising international crime, often drugs-related, especially in the southernmost part of the province.


The name Limburg

Limburg's name derives from the fortified castle town known as Limbourg, situated on the river Vesdre near the High Fens, currently in the Belgian province of Liège. It was the seat of the medieval Duchy of Limburg which extended into the Meuse region north of the city of Liège. However, most the area of the current Dutch Limburg was not part of this polity but was divided among several states including the Duchy of Brabant, the Duchy of Jülich, the Duchy of Guelders, and the Bishopric of Liège, as well as the Duchy of Limburg. A result of this division is still evident in the plethora of distinct varieties of the Limburgish language spoken in Limburg municipalities.


Territories in the Low Countries 1556–1648 that later built modern Limburg

For centuries, the strategic location of the current province made it a much-coveted region among Europe's major powers. Romans, Habsburg Spaniards, Prussians, Habsburg Austrians and French have all ruled Limburg.

The first inhabitants of which traces have been found were Neanderthals that camped in South Limburg. In the Neolithic flint was mined in underground mines; among others at Rijckholt where tourists can still visit one. In Roman times Limburg was thoroughly Romanized and many existing towns and cities like Mosa Trajectum (Maastricht) and Coriovallum (Heerlen) were then founded. Bishop Servatius introduced Christianity in Roman Maastricht where he died in 384. After the Romans had the Franks charge here. The area flourished under Frankish rule. Charlemagne had his palace in nearby Aachen. After the partition of the Frankish empire the current Limburg belonged, like the rest of the Netherlands, till the new time to the Holy Roman Empire.

The territory of Limburg was from the early Middle Ages usually divided between the Duchy of Brabant, Duchy of Gelderland, Duchy of Jülich, the Principality of Liège and the prince-bishop of Cologne. These dukes and bishops were nominal subordinates of the Emperor of the Roman Empire, but in practice they acted as independent sovereigns who often were at war among themselves. Their conflicts were often fought in Limburg area so that it also contributed to the fragmentation of the area.

The New time Limburg was largely divided between Spain (and its successor, Austria), Prussia, the Republic of the Seven United Netherlands, the Principality of Liège and many independent small Fiefs.

In 1673, Louis XIV personally commanded the siege of Maastricht by French troops. During the siege, one of his brigadiers, Charles de Batz-Castelmore d'Artagnan, perished. He subsequently became known as a major character in The Three Musketeers by Alexandre Dumas, père (1802–1870).

Limburg was also the scene of many a bloody battle during the Eighty Years' War (1568–1648), in which the Dutch Republic threw off Habsburg Spanish rule. At the Battle of Mookerheyde (14 April 1574), two brothers of Prince William of Orange-Nassau and thousands of "Dutch" mercenaries lost their lives. Most Limburgians fought on the Spanish side, being Catholics and hating the Calvinist Hollanders.

Following the Napoleonic Era, the great powers (England, Prussia, the Austrian Empire, the Russian Empire and France) united the region with the new Kingdom of the Netherlands in 1815. A new province was formed which was to receive the name "Maastricht" after its capital. The first king, William I, who did not want the name Limburg to be lost, insisted that the name be changed to "Province of Limburg". As such, the name of the new province derived from the old Duchy of Limburg that had existed until 1648 within the triangle of Maastricht, Liège, and Aachen.

When the Catholic and French-speaking Belgians split away from the mainly Calvinist northern Netherlands in the Belgian Revolution of 1830, the Province of Limburg was at first almost entirely under Belgian rule. However, by the 1839 Treaty of London, the province was divided in two, with the eastern part going to the Netherlands and the western part to Belgium, a division that remains today.

Map of Limburg
Amsterdam Almelo Almere Amersfoort Arnhem Assen Breda Den Haag Delft Delfzijl Den Bosch Den Helder Dordrecht Enschede Haarlem Hilversum Maastricht Middelburg Zwolle Lelystad Leiden Katwijk Nijmegen Eindhoven Vlissingen Rotterdam Leeuwarden Heerenveen Groningen (city) Emmen Almelo Apeldoorn Alkmaar Zaanstad Tilburg Venlo Heerlen Drenthe Flevoland Friesland Gelderland Groningen Limburg North Brabant North Holland Overijssel South Holland Utrecht Zeeland
Map of the Netherlands, linking to the province articles; red dots mark provincial capitals and black dots other notable cities or towns.

With the Treaty of London, what is now the Belgian Province of Luxembourg was handed over to Belgium and removed from the German Confederation. To appease Prussia, which had also lost access to the Meuse after the Congress of Vienna, the Dutch province of Limburg (but not the cities of Maastricht and Venlo because without them the population of Limburg equalled the population of the Province of Luxembourg, 150,000 [1]), was joined to the German Confederation between September 5, 1839 and August 23, 1866 as Duchy of Limburg. On 11 May 1867, the Duchy, which from 1839 on had been de jure a separate polity in personal union with the Kingdom of the Netherlands, was re-incorporated into the latter with the Treaty of London. The style "Duchy of Limburg" however continued in some official use until February 1907. Another idiosyncrasy survives today: the head of the province, referred to as the "Queen's Commissioner" in other provinces, is addressed as "Governor" in Limburg.

The Second World War cost the lives of many civilians in Limburg, and a large number of towns and villages were destroyed by bombings and artillery battles. Various cemeteries, too, bear witness to this dark chapter in Limburg's history. Almost 8,500 American soldiers, who perished during the liberation of the Netherlands, lie buried at the Netherlands American Cemetery and Memorial in Margraten. Other big war cemeteries are to be found at Overloon (British soldiers) and the Ysselsteyn German war cemetery was constructed in the Municipality of Venray for the 31,000 German soldiers who lost their lives.

In December 1991, the European Community (now European Union) held a summit in Maastricht. At that summit, the "Treaty on European Union" or so-called Maastricht treaty was signed by the European Community member states. With that treaty, the European Union came into existence.


In 't Bronsgroen Eikenhout is the official anthem of both Belgian and Dutch Limburg.


Limburg has its own language, called Limburgish (Dutch: Limburgs). This is, since 1997, an official regional language, and as such receives moderate protection under Chapter 2 of the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages. It is not recognised by the Dutch, German and Belgian governments as an official language. Limburgish is spoken by an estimated 1.6 million people in both Belgian and Dutch Limburg and Germany. There are many different dialects in the Limburgish language. Almost every town and village has its own slightly different dialect.

Dialects in the southeast (near Aachen) are closer to Ripuarian, and are sometimes classified as Southeast Limburgish, while dialects spoken in the Meuse (Dutch: Maas) valley have a somewhat lighter tone[dubious ] to them. Even within the cities of Venlo and Maastricht, very different dialects separated by major isoglosses continue to exist. These distinctions have been around for hundreds if not thousands of years.


The provincial council (Provinciale Staten) has 63 seats, and is headed by a Queen's Commissioner that is uniquely among Dutch provinces called the Governor. The current Governor is Leon Frissen. While the provincial council is elected by the inhabitants, the Governor is appointed by the Queen and the cabinet of the Netherlands. The populist PVV is currently the largest party in the council.

The daily affairs of the province are taken care of by the Gedeputeerde Staten, which are also headed by the Governor; its members (gedeputeerden) can be compared with ministers.



The south of the province is remarkable when compared to the rest of the country, as it is one of the few regions that has hills. The highest point in the Netherlands, the Vaalserberg, is situated at the Dutch-Belgian-German border. The most important river is the Meuse, that passes through the entire length of the province from South to North. Limburg's surface is largely formed by deposits from this Meuse river, consisting of river clay, fertile loessial soil and large deposits of pebblestone, currently being quarried for the construction industry. In northern parts of the province, further away from the river bed, the soil primarily consists of sand and peat. Major cities are the provincial capital Maastricht and the urban agglomerations of Sittard-Geleen and Parkstad Limburg (including Heerlen) in the south and Venlo in the north. Limburg makes up one region of the International Organization for Standardization world region code system, having the code ISO 3166-2:NL-LI.

A panorama of the Heuvelland between Schin op Geul and Valkenburg aan de Geul


In the past peat, gravel and coal were mined in Limburg. The state-owned corporation that used to mine in Limburg, DSM, is currently a major chemical company, still operating in Limburg. Automotive industry (Born) and production of copiers and printers (Océ in Venlo) are also present. Furthermore in the southern part, the undulating, densely populated triangle between Heerlen/Kerkrade in the south-east, Sittard in the north and Maastricht in the south-west, there are some four beer-breweries.

From way back the southern part of Limburg is one of the two fruitgrowing areas of the country. Since some four decades however big parts of the fruittree arsenal have disappeared and been replaced by water, as a result of vast gravel extraction near the river Meuse.

Famous Limburgians

Politicians, scientists

Entertainment, arts

  • John Bröcheler, (1945) - Bass-baritone singer
  • Jo Coenen - Architect and urban planner.
  • Guido Diederen - Musician, orchestra director
  • Mike van Diem - Film director
  • Appie Drielsma - sculptor
  • Toon Hermans (1916–2000) - Comedian, singer, writer
  • Marjon Lambriks (1949) - Soprano singer
  • Chantal Janzen (1979) - Actress
  • Connie Palmen (1955) - Writer
  • Guido Pieters (1948) - Film director
  • Pussycat - Band
  • André Rieu (1949) - Musician, orchestra director
  • Felix Rutten - Writer
  • Willy Schobben - Trompettist
  • Heintje Simons - Singer and actor
  • Huub Stapel (1954) - Actor
  • Frans Timmermans (1921-2005) - Sculptor
  • The Walkers - Band
  • Thijs Wilms (1943 Helden- Panningen) - Co-author comic strip "Ox Tales"



See also

External links

Coordinates: 51°12′36″N 5°56′10″E / 51.21°N 5.93611°E / 51.21; 5.93611

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