What Are the Jezuïetenberg Tunnels, And Why Are They Covered in Art?

A statue of a cherub inside the Jezuïetenberg Caves
A statue of a cherub inside the Jezuïetenberg Caves | © Otter / WikiCommons
Tom Coggins

A series of mysterious caves lies just outside the Dutch city of Maastricht, which contains dozens of unusual statues, reliefs and frescoes inspired by seemingly unrelated cultures from around the world. This strange monument was created by several generations of Jesuits, for reasons that aren’t entirely clear.
The caves in question are located roughly five kilometres away from Maastricht’s historic centre and are collectively known as the Jezuïetenberg Tunnels. Unlike most other Dutch cities, which stand on flat ground barely above sea level, Maastricht developed amid the hills and mountains that run through the most southerly parts of the Netherlands. Over the centuries, hundreds of underground quarries and passageways were constructed beneath the city in order to provide its residents with building materials. Jezuïetenberg, for instance, was excavated at some point before the 18th century, almost certainly because it contained large deposits of limestone.

Loved by over 40s
The entrance to the tunnels

In the mid-19th century, an order of Jesuits based near Maastricht began exploring the tunnels, which had since been abandoned by miners, and gradually converted these subterranean passageways into workshops and galleries, where they could practice artistic pursuits. They mainly ventured underground during their free time on Wednesday and honed their given skills by chiselling, painting and carving the stones found within the tunnels. The Jesuits maintained this pastime for over a century, creating artwork after artwork inside the caves until they were expelled from the region by the Nazis during World War II. Although they returned after the war, the Jesuits eventually departed Maastricht in 1968, leaving their artworks in the care of another organisation called the Jezuïetenberg Foundation.

A chapel built inside the tunnels

While there are many examples of Christian and secular artworks in the tunnels, many of the Jesuits’ creations depict figures, motifs or scenes drawn from other religions. For instance, statues of Buddha and Hindu deities stand within eyeshot of reliefs portraying Jesus, the nativity and the Virgin Mary inside the caves. Pieces based on ancient masonry are also presented, including an enormous stone head carved into the likeness of Egyptian Pharaoh, Ramses II and two towering sphinx-like cherubs, which resemble the sentinels that once stood outside the palace of Sargon II, King of Assyria.

A statue of a cherub inside the Jezuïetenberg Caves

The Jesuits evidently admired Islamic artwork, too, and managed to recreate, to some measure, Granada’s famed Alhambra palace within the confines of the caves. It is possible for visitors to walk through this gigantic piece of stonework and admire its colourful gateways, arches and walls, which are clearly inspired by Moorish architecture from the Medieval period.

An image of Saint Francis found in the caves

Although nobody can say for certain, it is likely that the Jesuits chose to recreate these non-Christian artworks out of admiration and to improve their own skills by copying historic masterpieces from around the world. What’s more, the Jesuits were devoted to scholarly pursuits and therefore, had access to large bodies of literature, allowing them to learn about cultures from distant lands. Many of the Jesuits that lived in Maastricht actually immigrated there from other countries in Europe or travelled abroad as missionaries, eventually returning with knowledge of other continents. In fact, several artworks inside the caves reflect their creators’ worldliness and feature imagery from Southeast Asia and America.

culture trip left arrow
 culture trip brand logo

Volcanic Iceland Epic Trip

meet our Local Insider


women sitting on iceberg


2 years.


It's the personal contact, the personal experiences. I love meeting people from all over the world... I really like getting to know everyone and feeling like I'm traveling with a group of friends.


I have so many places on my list, but I would really lobe to go to Africa. I consider myself an “adventure girl” and Africa feels like the ULTIMATE adventure!

culture trip logo letter c
group posing for picture on iceberg
group posing for picture on iceberg

Every CULTURE TRIP Small-group adventure is led by a Local Insider just like Hanna.

map of volcanic iceland trip destination points
culture trip brand logo
culture trip right arrow
landscape with balloons floating in the air


Connect with like-minded people on our premium trips curated by local insiders and with care for the world

Since you are here, we would like to share our vision for the future of travel - and the direction Culture Trip is moving in.

Culture Trip launched in 2011 with a simple yet passionate mission: to inspire people to go beyond their boundaries and experience what makes a place, its people and its culture special and meaningful — and this is still in our DNA today. We are proud that, for more than a decade, millions like you have trusted our award-winning recommendations by people who deeply understand what makes certain places and communities so special.

Increasingly we believe the world needs more meaningful, real-life connections between curious travellers keen to explore the world in a more responsible way. That is why we have intensively curated a collection of premium small-group trips as an invitation to meet and connect with new, like-minded people for once-in-a-lifetime experiences in three categories: Culture Trips, Rail Trips and Private Trips. Our Trips are suitable for both solo travelers, couples and friends who want to explore the world together.

Culture Trips are deeply immersive 5 to 16 days itineraries, that combine authentic local experiences, exciting activities and 4-5* accommodation to look forward to at the end of each day. Our Rail Trips are our most planet-friendly itineraries that invite you to take the scenic route, relax whilst getting under the skin of a destination. Our Private Trips are fully tailored itineraries, curated by our Travel Experts specifically for you, your friends or your family.

We know that many of you worry about the environmental impact of travel and are looking for ways of expanding horizons in ways that do minimal harm - and may even bring benefits. We are committed to go as far as possible in curating our trips with care for the planet. That is why all of our trips are flightless in destination, fully carbon offset - and we have ambitious plans to be net zero in the very near future.