Oignies Abbey is a former Augustinian monastery established in 1187. Four brothers from Walcourt settled at Oignies, Three of the brothers, Gilles, Robert and John, were priests, while the fourth, Hugo, was a jeweller and metalworker. Several other men settled with them and they formed the community of St. Nicolas of Oignies, adopting the rule of St. Augustine. In 1192, St Nicolas of Oignies was officially recognized as a priory by the order of the Canons of St. Augustine. Gilles becomes the first prior, a position that he held for 4l years. The community built a church dedicated to St. Nicolas, which was consecrated in 1204. Following major alterations it was reconsecrated in 1226. In circa 1230, Hugo presented to the monastery a manuscript and silver book covers, the book cover depicting Hugo as a layman, and the monastery's patron saint St. Nicolas.

Though the priory remained a community of 12 to 20 men, it eventually became an Augustinian monastery. Between the thirteenth and sixteenth centuries there were several fires. The wars in the southern Netherlands also caused destruction. The monastery was suppressed in 1796 and priory's land parcels were sold and became public property. In 1836, the new owner demolished the cloister. A statue of the Virgin from medieval times is now at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City. Situated on 3 hectares in a park-like setting, the building is now privately owned and can be rented for events such as seminars, conventions, and weddings.

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Founded: 1187
Category: Religious sites in Belgium

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