Saint Servaas (Servatius) was an Armenian missionary who became Bishop of Tongeren. The Tungri (or Tungrians) were a tribe, or group of tribes, who lived in the Belgic part of Gaul, during the times of the Roman Empire. As one of the early missionaries of the Christian church, and later a bishop, he played an important part as a diplomat during the development of church doctrine and he took part in many of the debates and councils held during that time.
Over the centuries legends accumulated around the Saint Servaas including that he was the cousin of John the Baptist, and therefore a distant relative of Jesus. At the end of the 12th century the poet Henric van Veldeke wrote a new legend of Saint Servaas, adding several more miracles and emphasizing Saint Servaas' saintliness.
According to tradition the saint's remains now lie in the 6th century crypt. His tomb has been a place of pilgrimage for many centuries. Among the many Emperors, Dukes and Counts who prayed in the basilica, famous visitors, include Charles Martel, Charlemagne, Holy roman Emperor Charles V, and King Phillip II of Spain.
The reliquary is a major work of “Mosen” art. Mosen art is a Romanesque regional art from the valley of the Meuse River in the Low Countries of what are now Belgium, Netherlands and Germany. This style of art reached a high level of expertise in the 11th, 12th and 13th centuries.
Due to the close ties to the Holy Roman Empire, the Romanesque church was built with many German Imperial stylistic elements, but as with the reliquary, the church also exhibited details in the local Mosan art style.
As we wandered the graceful lofty space, we could see several ages of artistic style blend into one another to create a beautiful harmony.
It was originally built in the 12th century as a baptistery for St. Servaas. The tower was built in the 15 century in the style of the cathedral tower in Utrecht. In 1633, after a short period when it was an autonomous parish church, it came into Protestant possession as a Dutch Reformed Church.
The basilica was partially restored between 1866 and 1900 and again from 1982-1991. Through the efforts of these preservationists, we were able to experience the historic beauty of this peaceful collection of spaces considered sacred for so many over the centuries.