Monasteries in Belgium

Cambron Abbey

Cambron Abbey is a former Cistercian abbey, today site is now used as a zoo. Twelve monks from Clairvaux arrived at Cambron on August 1, 1148. They were sent by St. Bernard, abbot of Clairvaux. Shortly after its foundation, the abbey grew substantially. It became one of the wealthiest monasteries of Hainault and variously founded, or was given the supervision of, several daughter houses. By the end of the 14th century, t ...
Founded: 1148 | Location: Brugenette, Belgium

Villers Abbey

Villers Abbey (abbaye de Villers) is an ancient Cistercian abbey in Villers-la-Ville. In 1146, 12 Cistercian monks and three lay brothers from Clairvaux came to Villers in order to establish the abbey on land granted them by Gauthier de Marbais. After establishing several preliminary sites, work was finally undertaken in the 13th century to build the current site. The choir was constructed by 1217, the crypt by 1240, and ...
Founded: 1217 | Location: Villers-la-Ville, Belgium

St. Peter's Abbey

St. Peter"s Abbey is a former Benedictine abbey in Ghent, now a museum and exhibition centre. St. Peter"s was founded in the late 7th century by Amandus, a missionary sent by the Frankish kings to Christianize the pagan inhabitants of the region, who founded two monasteries in the area, St. Bavo"s, and St. Peter"s on the Blandijnberg. During the winter of 879-80, the abbey was raided and plundered by t ...
Founded: 7th century AD | Location: Ghent, Belgium

Nivelles Abbey Church

The Abbey of Nivelles was a former Imperial Abbey of the Holy Roman Empire founded about 648-649 AD by the widow of Pepin of Landen, Itta of Metz, along with her daughter, Gertrude of Nivelles. The abbey began as a community of nuns; they were joined later by Irish monks from the Abbey of Mont Saint-Quentin, sent by Abbot Foillan to give support to the nuns. A group of the monks settled at Nivelles and it soon became a do ...
Founded: 649 AD | Location: Nivelles, Belgium

Orval Abbey

Orval Abbey is a Cistercian monastery founded in 1132. The abbey is well known for its history and spiritual life but also for its local production of the Trappist beer Orval and a specific cheese. The site has been occupied since the Merovingian period, and there is evidence that there was already a chapel here in the 10th century. In 1070, a group of Benedictine monks from Calabria settled here, at the invitation of Ar ...
Founded: 1132 | Location: Florenville, Belgium

Saint Gertrude's Abbey Church

Saint Gertrude"s was an Augustine abbey, limited to 12 canons of noble descent. The church was built from the 14th to the 16th century. The tower has an openwork spire, dating from 1453. Inside is an 18th century carillon. The abbey was closed in 1796 (during French occupation) and the buildings got other uses. In 1919 it became a Benedictine abbey. Reconstructions were carried out after the fire during World War II ...
Founded: 14th century | Location: Leuven, Belgium

Rouge-Cloître Abbey

Rouge-Cloître Abbey is an Augustinian abbey, founded in 1367. The name Roodklooster or Rouge-Cloître means the Red Hermitage. Apparently, the walls of the original hermitage were coated in crushed tiles, which produced the characteristic colour. The hermitage was built in 1366 by a priest called Gilles Olivier and a layman called Walter van der Molen. William Daniel, a priest of the parish of Boendael, also ce ...
Founded: 1367 | Location: Brussels, Belgium

La Cambre Abbey

The Abbey of La Cambre or Ter Kameren Abbey is a former Cistercian abbey in Ixelles, Brussels. The abbey church is a catholic parish of the Archdiocese of Malines-Brussels and home to a community of Norbertine canons while other parts of the monastery house the headquarters of the Belgian National Geographic Institute and La Cambre, a prestigious visual arts school. The abbey was founded about 1196, by its patroness Gis& ...
Founded: c. 1196 | Location: Brussels, Belgium

Grimbergen Abbey

Grimbergen Abbey is a Premonstratensian monastery established in 1128 in the place of an earlier foundation of Augustinian Canons. The abbey itself was dissolved in 1796 in the aftermath of the French Revolution, but the abbey church of Saint Servatius survived as the parish church of Grimbergen. After the French Revolution the abbey was reinstated. The building in its present form dates from 1660 and is considered one o ...
Founded: 1128 | Location: Grimbergen, Belgium

Bois-Seigneur-Isaac Abbey

Bois-Seigneur-Isaac Abbey is a former Augustinian abbey, now a Premonstratensian priory. In the 11th century Lord Isaac set out on Crusade and was taken prisoner by the Saracens, but was miraculously freed following a vision of the Virgin Mary. On returning to his lands he built a wooden chapel dedicated to Our Lady of Grace and Consolation, with a statue venerated for nearly two centuries. In 1336 the neighbouring villag ...
Founded: 1413 | Location: Braine-l'Alleud, Belgium

Keizersberg Abbey

Keizersberg Abbey, also known as Mont César Abbey is a Benedictine monastery. The Keizersberg (Caesar"s or Emperor"s hill) was the site of the castle around which the city of Leuven grew up, and which local legend connected with Julius Caesar. The castle was demolished in 1782 by order of Emperor Joseph II. On the east side of the same hill a commandery of the Knights Templars was built in 1187, which whe ...
Founded: 1888 | Location: Leuven, Belgium

Aulne Abbey Ruins

Aulne Abbey was a Cistercian monastery, founded by Saint Landelinus about 637. Before 974 the Benedictines were replaced by secular clerics leading a common life, who, however, embraced the Rule of St. Augustine in 1144. At the instance of Henry de Leyen, Bishop of Liège, it came into the hands of Cistercian monks from Clairvaux in 1147, under Franco de Morvaux as its first Cistercian abbot. From that time onwards ...
Founded: 637 AD | Location: Thuin, Belgium

Forest Abbey

Forest Abbey is a Benedictine Abbey founded in 1105, beside a creek, a tributary of the Zenne, southwest of the city of Brussels. The abbots of Affligem, which had been the ecclesiastical owners of the parish since the bishop of Cambrai ceded it to them in 1105, decided to build a priory for women in Forest, Forest Abbey. The first abbess of the Forest priory was named in 1239. Also in the 13th century, the Romanesque chu ...
Founded: 1105 | Location: Brussels, Belgium

Saint-Hubert Abbey Church

The Abbey of Saint-Hubert, officially the Abbey of St Peter in the Ardennes, was a Benedictine monastery founded in the Ardennes in 687 and suppressed in 1797. The former abbey church is now a minor basilica in the diocese of Namur. The monastery was founded in the village of Andage in 687 by Pepin of Herstal and his wife, Plectrude, for the monk Bergis. The remains of St Hubert (died 727) were installed in t ...
Founded: 687 AD | Location: Saint-Hubert, Belgium

Averbode Abbey

Averbode Abbey was founded about 1134–1135 by Arnold II, Count of Loon. The abbey started rather small but grew over the centuries, until it was some 5500 ha in the 17th century, including farms, fields, woodland, mills, heath, and local chapels. The abbey also provided the priests for 27 parishes. The first abbey church was inaugurated in 1194, and soon after the nuns, who until then resided in Averbode as well, mo ...
Founded: 1134 | Location: Vlaanderen, Belgium

Drongen Abbey

Drongen Abbey is a monastic complex on the River Leie in Drongen, a part of the city of Ghent. Formerly a Premonstratensian abbey, since 1837 the premises have belonged to the Jesuits. In the Middle Ages there were two legends regarding the abbey"s foundation in the 7th century. According to one, the abbey was built by a certain Basinus, king of Basotes; according to the other, its founder was Saint Amandus, who als ...
Founded: 7th century/1638 | Location: Ghent, Belgium

Maredsous Abbey

Maredsous Abbey was founded in 1872 by Beuron Abbey in Germany. The foundation was supported financially by the Desclée family, who paid for the design and construction of the spectacular buildings, which are the masterwork of the architect Jean-Baptiste de Béthune (1831–1894), leader of the neo-gothic style in Belgium. The overall plan is based on the 13th century Cistercian abbey of Villers at Viller ...
Founded: 1872 | Location: Denée, Belgium

Ter Doest Abbey

Ter Doest Abbey was a Cistercian abbey in the present Lissewege, a district of Bruge. Lambert, lord of Lissewege, left an estate with a chapel in 1106 to the Benedictines, who built an abbey there. This affiliated itself to the Cistercian order in 1175 as a daughter house of Ten Duinen Abbey in Koksijde, of the filiation of Clairvaux. It had a daughter house of its own, the Abbey of Onze Lieve Vrouw Kamer, founded in 1223 ...
Founded: 1106 | Location: Lissewege, Belgium

Herkenrode Abbey

Herkenrode Abbey is a former monastery of Cistercian nuns. Since 1972 some of the surviving buildings have served as the home of a community of the Canonesses of the Holy Sepulchre, who have since built a new retreat center and church on the site. The abbey was founded in or about 1182 by Count Gerard of Loon, who sold a part of his lands to raise funds for his participation in the Crusades, and used some of the proceeds ...
Founded: 1182 | Location: Hasselt, Belgium

Andenne Abbey Church

Saint Begga, great-great-grandmother of Charlemagne, founded a Merovingian abbey in Andenne circa 692. That abbey comprised seven churches, in addition to two separate quarters. In the 11th century, the monastery was changed intoa secular chapter. Secular power required recruitment among the nobility. That is why the early monastery becamea predominantly female Noble Chapter. In 1762, the seven churches were in a very po ...
Founded: 692 AD | Location: Andenne, Belgium

Featured Historic Landmarks, Sites & Buildings

Historic Site of the week

Porta Nigra

The Porta Nigra (Latin for black gate) is the largest Roman city gate north of the Alps. It is designated as part of the Roman Monuments, Cathedral of St. Peter and Church of Our Lady in Trier UNESCO World Heritage Site. The name Porta Nigra originated in the Middle Ages due to the darkened colour of its stone; the original Roman name has not been preserved. Locals commonly refer to the Porta Nigra simply as Porta.

The Porta Nigra was built in grey sandstone between 186 and 200 AD. The original gate consisted of two four-storied towers, projecting as near semicircles on the outer side. A narrow courtyard separated the two gate openings on either side. For unknown reasons, however, the construction of the gate remained unfinished. For example, the stones at the northern (outer) side of the gate were never abraded, and the protruding stones would have made it impossible to install movable gates. Nonetheless, the gate was used for several centuries until the end of the Roman era in Trier.

In Roman times, the Porta Nigra was part of a system of four city gates, one of which stood at each side of the roughly rectangular Roman city. The Porta Nigra guarded the northern entry to the Roman city, while the Porta Alba (White Gate) was built in the east, the Porta Media (Middle Gate) in the south, and the Porta Inclyta (Famous Gate) in the west, next to the Roman bridge across the Moselle. The gates stood at the ends of the two main streets of the Roman Trier, one of which led north-south and the other east-west. Of these gates, only the Porta Nigra still exists today.

In the early Middle Ages the Roman city gates were no longer used for their original function and their stones were taken and reused for other buildings. Also iron and lead braces were broken out of the walls of the Porta Nigra for reuse. Traces of this destruction are still clearly visible on the north side of the gate.

After 1028, the Greek monk Simeon lived as a hermit in the ruins of the Porta Nigra. After his death (1035) and sanctification, the Simeonstift monastery was built next to the Porta Nigra to honor him. Saving it from further destruction, the Porta Nigra was transformed into a church: The inner court of the gate was roofed and intermediate ceilings were inserted. The two middle storeys of the former gate were converted into church naves: the upper storey being for the monks and the lower storey for the general public. The ground floor with the large gates was sealed, and a large outside staircase was constructed alongside the south side (the town side) of the gate, up to the lower storey of the church. A small staircase led further up to the upper storey. The church rooms were accessible through former windows of the western tower of the Porta Nigra that were enlarged to become entrance doors (still visible today). The top floor of the western tower was used as church tower, the eastern tower was leveled, and an apse added at its east side. An additional gate - the much smaller Simeon Gate - was built adjacent to the East side of the Porta Nigra and served as a city gate in medieval times.

In 1802 Napoleon Bonaparte dissolved the church in the Porta Nigra and the monastery beside it, along with the vast majority of Trier"s numerous churches and monasteries. On his visit to Trier in 1804, Napoleon ordered that the Porta Nigra be converted back to its Roman form. Only the apse was kept; but the eastern tower was not rebuilt to its original height. Local legend has it that Napoleon originally wanted to completely tear down the church, but locals convinced him that the church had actually been a Gaulish festival hall before being turned into a church. Another version of the story is that they told him about its Roman origins, persuading him to convert the gate back to its original form.

In 1986 the Porta Nigra was designated a World Heritage Site, along with other Roman monuments in Trier and its surroundings. The modern appearance of the Porta Nigra goes back almost unchanged to the reconstruction ordered by Napoleon. At the south side of the Porta Nigra, remains of Roman columns line the last 100 m of the street leading to the gate. Positioned where they had stood in Roman times, they give a slight impression of the aspect of the original Roman street that was lined with colonnades. The Porta Nigra, including the upper floors, is open to visitors.