Ceremonial mace
Ceremonial mace

At the opening ceremony of State University Limburg on 9 January 1976 – the dies natalis of Maastricht University – the university received a ceremonial mace from the governor of the Province of Limburg, Ch. van Rooy. He was also chairman of the Foundation for Scientific Education Limburg (SWOL), today called University Fund Limburg / SWOL. As of 1965, the SWOL had lobbied for the establishment of a university in Limburg. On this historic day, Van Rooy did not just offer a ceremonial mace as present, but also a chairman’s gavel to the university’s first president, Sjeng Tans, and a silver chain of office to the first rector magnificus, Harmen Tiddens. The mace was handed to the university’s first beadle, J. M. E. Stockbroeckx, who worked at one of the province’s offices. The word ‘beadle’ (or ‘pedel’ in Dutch) actually goes back to the word bidellus or pedellus, staff bearer.

In this way, the young university was linked to a long tradition going back to the Middle Ages. Of old, a university was offered a ceremonial mace by an external party, such as a prince or bishop, who through this present bestowed all of the giver’s authority upon the university. The mace symbolized rectorial jurisdiction. It was a sign of the spiritual and worldly authority within the university, or, in other words, its autonomy. This worldly and spiritual authority stopped at the boundaries of the universitas. As the story goes, sometimes the mace was used as a stick or club to restore order during loud or unruly ceremonies. Of old, then, there has been a close connection between mace, beadle, rector and university.


The very first ceremonial maces basically consisted of a wooden stick furnished with a silver crowning. Later, they were made of solid silver. In the Netherlands, it has been common to hold on to the oldest type. The maker of Maastricht University’s ceremonial mace is Dick Roymans, a silversmith from Mechelen who respected tradition. He used Brazilian rosewood, a hardwood having a reddish brown to black-brown colour and a coarse grain. The mace has a total length of 122 centimetres, and Roymans furnished it with a solid silver crowning in the shape of a morning star. He also added tiny silver bells. The tinkling of the bells accompanies the arrival of the beadle, who while speaking the words hora est uses the mace to strike on the floor so as formally to end a PhD defence ceremony. Roymans also decorated the staff with three silver buttons, the middle one carrying the text: ‘presented by SWOL in Maastricht, 9 January 1976’.

Total length: 122 cm
Length silver crowning: 26 cm
Marks: business stamp Minerva head with K (’s-Hertogenbosch)
Hallmark erect lion with 1 (sterling)
Year letter designation P (1975)
Maker’s mark Dick Roymans (number 3331) with T and R in one sign

© 2022 Art and Heritage Commission, Maastricht University