In the extreme northeast of Belgium right on the frontier with the Netherlands lies Maaseik, the birthplace of the Flemish painters Hubert and Jan van Eyck. There was a monastery here as early as the eighth C. around which arose a village which was later destroyed; a new village grew up around the castle, built in the 11th C., and from this developed Maaseik. Thanks to its favorable position on the Meuse the town had some importance as a commercial center, but after the separation of Belgium from the Netherlands Maaseik became remote. However the town has always been interesting because of its many examples of the Renaissance architecture of the Meuse area.
The extensive Grote Markt with its four fountains, a double row of lime trees and in the middle a monument to the van Eyck brothers is surrounded by a number of examples of Renaissance architecture of which the houses "Stad Amsterdam (1686) and "Drie Leliën" (1715) are the finest.
Along Bosstraat are examples of Mosan Renaissance architecture, including the brick built house "Verkerde Wereld" (No. 7), the half-timbered house No. 17 dating from 1600, No. 19 dating from 1620 and the "Stenenhuis" or "Drossaardhuis" (an official house; No. 21).
At No.5 Lekkerstraat, in the very fine building of 1704 and also in a new building are housed three museums under the futuristic name of Museactron. They are the Apothecaries' Museum with the oldest apothecary's shop in Belgium (17th C.), the regional Archaeological Museum with historic and Roman exhibits, an impressive ivory collection and many different examples of handwork; finally in the cellar can be found a bakery museum with an old bakery.
Treasury St Catharina
The 19th C. Sint-Catharinakerk has little of architectural merit, but possesses an extraordinary treasury, the masterpiece of which is the "Codex Eyckensis" - a gospel dating from the eighth C. (the Gospel of St Harlinde), which is the oldest book in Belgium - as well as a satin reliquary of the 10th C.
Sint-Annakerk in the northwest suburb of Aldeneik goes back to a former eighth C. monastic church. The present building is a pillared basilica of the 12th C. which was not erected until the monastery fell into ruins. It still has its Romanesque doorway and nave with the remains of paintings as well as Merovingian stone sarcophagi, among which beneath the altar is that of the saints Harlinde and Relinde who founded the monastery.
Bree is situated 16km/10miles from Maaseik on the Willems Vaart canal. The little town belonged for a long time to the bishopric of Liège. Of interest are the five-aisled Sint- Michielskerk, the fine tombstones and especially a 15th C. calvary and a 16th C. burial group.The Stadhuis of 1754 also houses a local museum.
Bocholt, 4km/2.5miles north of Bree, has a 15th C. church with an interesting interior; of special note is a Christophorus statue of the 15th C. The Goolderheide Leisure Park with a camping site has an open-air swimming pool with water-chutes.