The oldest elements of the Zwingelput 4 complex – also referred to as the ‘Nieuwenhof’ – date back to the 15th century, with other sections added in subsequent centuries. The complex is built up against the inside of the Maastricht city wall.
At Zwingelput 4, Beguines – devout women who led pious lives – built a ‘beguinage’ up against the second city wall in 1482. The Gothic chapel of the Nieuwenhof dates to the 15th century, though the complex is mainly of 17th-century origin. Over the course of the 16th century, the Beguine community developed into a convent of ‘Tertiaries of Saint Francis’ At the beginning of the 17th century, the Nieuwenhof was a convent in which the nuns led a life of contemplation and prayer, with caring for the ill as their only worldly activity. During the French period, the convent was closed. In 1796, it was repurposed as a Catholic poorhouse to serve needy orphans, ‘R.K. Armenhuis’. At the end of the 19th century, the Sisters of Mercy of St. Borromeo, better known in Maastricht as the ‘Zusters onder de Bogen’ took charge of the girls’ ward. The Nieuwenhof served as a children’s home until 1980.
Following a major renovation, UM moved the Faculty of Law, founded in 1979, onto the premises in 1982. This faculty later moved to the ‘Het Oud Gouvernement’ building in 1998, making way for University College in the Nieuwenhof. During the most recent renovation in 2003–2006, efforts were made to incorporate as much of the existing structure as possible in order to minimise the alterations. The chapel was converted into a lecture hall. To retain the spaciousness, the lecture hall was situated in the open area like a piece of wooden furniture. Incidentally, the hall is oriented towards the rood loft rather than the altar. During the renovation, a common room with a glazed roof was also constructed, creating a kind of covered courtyard.