Vaals, Netherlands


Vaals (in its own regional language, the Völser-plat, called Vols) is the capital of the Dutch municipality of Vaals, located in the extreme southeast of Limburg. The village is located on the national border of the Netherlands, near the border triangle with Belgium and Germany, west of the German city of Aachen. Vaals has more than 7,945 inhabitants, making it the largest town within the municipality.


Nature and landscape

Vaals is located in the valley of the Selzerbeek between the Schneeberg in the north and the Vaalserberg in the south. The historic center of Vaals is located at an altitude of approximately 210 meters. In a southerly direction, the height increases rapidly.

The Vaalserberg is the highest point in the 'European Netherlands' with 322.4 meters NAP, where the Vaalser Drielandenpunt is also located. An offshoot of the Vaalserberg is the Bokkebosje. The Schneeberg to the north of the village, in Germany, owes its name to the limestone soil, which has a strikingly light color in summer compared to the surrounding grounds.



First mention

The place Vaals is first mentioned in 1041. The place is then called "Vals" or "Vallis" (meaning: "valley"), because it is located in a valley or valley, while Aachen was higher. At the time, the center of the town was in what is now Holset, where a high court was also located. In the municipal coat of arms of Vaals (13 August 1890), the holy bishop Lambert is depicted, who was the patron saint of Holset. Around this time the village belonged to the Land of 's-Hertogenrade, which was part of the three countries of Overmaas.


Crossroads of roadways

Because two main roads ran through Vaals, the Oude Akerweg from Maastricht to Aachen and the road from Rolduc to Moresnet, a small settlement arose in the valley over time. The lord jobs also ensured that the inhabitants of Vaals were regularly confronted with traveling army forces. In 1568, for example, the army of William of Orange, which moved towards Maastricht to the Spaniards, would pass through Vaals and plunder the then St. Paul's Church.


Protestant churchgoers

When the lands of Overmaas were divided between the Habsburgs and the Dutch Republic in 1661, Vaals was assigned to the Staatse. Together with the surrounding villages of Vijlen and Holset, Vaals formed an isolated enclave of the Republic. It was separated from the other countries of Overmaas by the Habsburg county of Witten. The boundaries between Vaals and the surrounding areas were not only political, but also religious in nature. While the Republic was Calvinist, Aachen, Limburg and Wittem were radically Catholic. This caused Vaals to be overrun by many Protestant churchgoers at that time. They not only came from Catholic Aachen, but also came from later Belgium. Under the protection of the States General of the Netherlands, these Protestants were allowed to hold church services in Vaals. That explains the remarkably large number of Protestant churches in the place. According to historians, around 1750 Vaals had barely ten to fifteen stone houses in the village center. After all, most people lived mainly in the hamlets around Vaals, such as the Raren and the Wolfhaag. However, as hundreds of Protestants from the border area in Vaals began to seek refuge to practice their religion, the number of churches and houses grew. As a result, the place had a Low German Reformed, a Walloon (French speaking), a Lutheran and a Mennonite church. In addition to these Protestant influences, the Catholics of Vaals continued to use the old parish church in the village and chose to connect their church building architecturally with the Hervormde Kerk. It is also worth mentioning that the Lutheran church community in Vaals was founded in 1669 on the initiative of Johann Klermondt from Burtscheid. In 1695 this congregation bought an old copper mill for its church services.

Industrial place
However, it would take another century before Vaals gained great name recognition and prosperity flourished. This was done by Aachen cloth manufacturer Johann Arnold von Clermont (1728-1795). In his time many Lutheran entrepreneurs emigrated from Aachen to the surrounding countryside. Here they enjoyed more freedom of religion and the restrictive regulations of the Aachen guilds did not apply. Johann Arnold von Clermont thus settled in Vaals from Aachen in 1761. He bought the dilapidated castle Vaalsbroek and the accompanying Vaalsbroeker mill from Baron Anton Ullrich de Lamberts de Cortenbach. From his businesses in Vaals, he then founded his textile empire there from 1765. He was not the first to do this. As early as 1699, Vaals had a thriving needle factory in Kerkstraat (ejen Schatull) that was founded by the Trostdorff family. In addition, the Cereshoeve and Im Bau in the Tentstraat also served as needle factories. The Von Clermonts supplemented this activity with their own textile industry. Vaals thus grew into an industrial site. Because the factory did business in Belgium, France, Prussia, Austria, Poland and Russia, this ensured great fame of the place. In 1717 Vaals welcomed the Russian Tsar Peter the Great and in 1803 the French emperor Napoleon Bonaparte.


Later date include:
Cigar factory Peeters, founded in 1893, building from 1925 at Maastrichterlaan 49, converted into a residential and shop building in 1954
Stoomwasserij Jardon, at Maastrichterlaan 59-61, established in 1926 in an existing café from 1891.
Needle factory MUVA, near Jos Francotteweg 23, from 1926.


Contested area

The Vienna Congress then determined in 1815 that Limburg, in which Vaals was located, belonged to the Kingdom of the United Netherlands. However, with the liberation of Belgium in 1830, Vaals belonged to Belgium for a short time from 1830 to 1839. Around this time Vaals was experiencing growing poverty. Its industry declined considerably and was only known as a starting place because of the existing play benches. In Germany there was talk of the "Vaalser Paradijs" (Vaalser Paradies).


Four borders

From 1839 to 1919, the place even had four borders. There was a Four Borders Point with the borders of Prussia, the Netherlands, Belgium and Neutral Moresnet. After the First World War, Neutral Moresnet joined the kingdom of Belgium and was renamed Kelmis / La Calamine. Vaals then tried to promote its industry and tourism. This was done by opening a tram track between Maastricht and Aachen from 1922 to 1924.


After the second World War

When the land borders were closed before and during the Second World War, Vaals became isolated. After that, retail tourism in particular got back on track. Germans came to Vaals every day to shop. In addition, they have settled in the village. This led to Vaals being known as a commuter town due to the commuter traffic between the village and surrounding Germany.