Today, I would like to tell you about the oldest bridge in the Low Lands. It is an incredible structure!
I am going to take you to Maastricht, all the way to the South of The Netherlands, very close to the Belgian border. It also happens to be my favourite city because the town is bursting with medieval atmosphere!
The oldest bridge of my country is also situated here and it was built in the 13th century, between the years 1280 and 1298. Because the land where the bridge was built on (yes, both sides of the Meuse river) belonged to the Saint Servatius church chapter, the bridge was not only called Saint Servatius bridge, the monks were also allowed to collect tolls.
Part of the tolls were supposed to be used for the upkeep of the bridge but sadly the monks only practised ‘damage control’ and would only replace the odd brick here and there. As a result, in 1349 the city of Maastricht took control of the bridge and the much needed repairs.
Now, I would not be showing you a bridge, as beautiful as this one is, if there wasn’t something incredibly interesting about it. Not to sound degrading, but this is a lot of bricks, yes? And this one you see here is the reconstructed one from 1948, after it was destroyed in September 1944.
Enter the Charter of Conrad III, king of the Holy Roman Empire from 1138 till 1152. I mentioned just now that the Saint Servatius Church Charter was allowed to collect tolls on the bridge. This deed, from the year 1139 is exactly that: the King’s donation of the bridge over the river Meuse (later called Sint-Servatius bridge) to the chapter of Saint Servatius in Maastricht. The charter was kept for centuries in the archive of the chapter of Saint Servatius.
What is says:
Eapropter eorum videlicet qui beato Servatio militant necessitatibus iuxta apostolum communicantes, pro amore dei et beati Servatii … necnon et Arnoldi cancellarii nostri eiusdem ęcclesię prepositi precum instantia permoti, pontem, qui supra Mosam situs est in ipso Traiecto, quem nostri iuris indubitanter esse constat, beato Servatio donamus et concedimus cum omni usu et utilitate, quę omnibus temporibus inde proveniet, libere possidendum hac conditione servata, ut de ipso fructu, qui inde percipietur, pons idem, quocienscumque necesse fuerit, reficiatur, reliquum, quod super erit, in duas partes dividatur, alia cedat in usum prepositi et successorum illius, alia vero ad refectorium fratrum et cotidiani victus augmentum. Cura vero et custodia eiusdem pontis sub tali cautela fiat, ne vel prepositus fratribus vel fratres preposito in causa premineant, sed sicut eos pares fecimus in donatione, sic etiam parificentur in ipsius possessionis ordinatione. Quod si prepositus vel aliquis successorum eius partem suam beneficiare vel invadiare temerario ausu presumpserit, tam ipse quam successores sui eadem portione ulterius careant, et in usus fratrum eadem pars cum altera iure perpetuo possidenda redigatur. … Actum publice in ęcclesia beati Servatii … multis clericis et laicis presentibus … quorum nomina subscripta sunt: Winandus ęcclesię sancti Servatii dekanus, Reinerus scholasticus, Andreas cantor, Willo camerarius, Everardus cellerarius …; ex familia ęcclesię Godefridus de Machlinis, Franco frater eius, Christianus, Engrammus, Godefridus frater eius, Heinricus de Lata Strata, Bertoldus villicus, Reinerus, Adolfus.
(R. Hackeng “Het middeleeuwse grondbezit van het Sint-Servaaskapittel te Maastricht in de regio Maas-Rijn”)
Translation (not perfect!!):
For that reason, according to the Apostle to the needs of their sharing in the One who is the blessed Servatio serve in the army, for the love of God and of the blessed Servatius… as well as of the provost of the church of the same, and the fervency of our greatly alarmed by Arnold the chancellor, over the bridge, which is above the Meuse that had been laid there, in the very he had transported, without doubt, which is admitted to be our own masters we grant and concede them the benefit of the use of Servatio, he and all of the blessed, which is accessible at all times from there turn out, is free to possess it: and the condition that in practice, is that from Him the fruit, He then addressed the same runway, as often as necessary, to recover the rest, so that above will be divided into two parts, one turns to the use of the reeve and his successors, and others in the refectory of daily living and growth. Under the care of such a caution, however, and the hold of that bridge done so as not to the reeve, or brethren, to the brethren in the cause of premineant or the reeve, in the gift; but, as we have done, that they were equal, so, too, were equivalent to the possession in the ordination. But if you, the reeve or any of his successors, pledge, or a part of it too bold and his beneficiare presume to do so, both he and his successors should further be deprived of a portion of the same, so when the second part of the right to possess for ever the same, and in the support of a brother to be drawn up. Publicly in St. Servatius … … … presents many clerical and lay, whose names are underwritten, Winandus Church St. Servatius Dekans Reinerus student Andrew Canter, Willem Chamberlain, Everard cellerarius …; , of the family of the Church, Godfrey of Machline, the French king was his brother, a Christian, Engrammus, Godfrey, his brother, Henry of The wide street, it Bertold him a steward, Reiner, Adolf.
Disclaimer: I am aware that my Latin and the resulting translation is not perfect! BUT this translation is NOT for grading or an exam, it is for your entertainment only so that you have an idea of the contents of the deed. Thank you for not shooting the messenger.