Susteren Abbey is a former Benedictine abbey founded in the 8th century. Early in 714 Pepin of Herstal and his wife Plectrude sent Saint Willibrord letters of conveyance and protection for the monastery, permitting free election of abbots. The Benedictine foundation served as a refuge for the missionaries working in Friesia and the Netherlands. The abbey was destroyed by the Vikings in 882 and refounded as a house of secular canonesses, whose first abbess was Saint Amelberga of Susteren, who died about 900.

The Lotharingian King Zwentibold, a benefactor of the abbey and either the father or the brother of the abbesses Benedicta and Cecilia, was buried (according to a later tradition) in Susteren Abbey in about 900. Also buried there are Saint Wastrada, who died in the mid-8th century, and Saint Gregory of Utrecht (d. about 775/777), a companion of Saint Boniface in his missions to Friesia, and later abbot of the Martinsstift in Utrecht.

The abbey was suppressed at the end of the 18th century when the French Revolution spilled over into the Low Countries. The church alone remains. The abbey church, one of the major examples of Romanesque architecture in the Netherlands, although marred by a poor restoration in 1885-1890, was built in the 11th century. It was clearly influenced by the Ottonian minster church of Essen Abbey. It was dedicated to Amelberga in 1886, after authentication of the relics kept here. On 6 September 2007 the church was declared a basilica minor.

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Founded: 714 AD
Category: Religious sites in Netherlands

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Trinity Sergius Lavra

The Trinity Lavra of St. Sergius is a world famous spiritual centre of the Russian Orthodox Church and a popular site of pilgrimage and tourism. It is the most important working Russian monastery and a residence of the Patriarch. This religious and military complex represents an epitome of the growth of Russian architecture and contains some of that architecture’s finest expressions. It exerted a profound influence on architecture in Russia and other parts of Eastern Europe.

The Trinity Lavra of St. Sergius, was founded in 1337 by the monk Sergius of Radonezh. Sergius achieved great prestige as the spiritual adviser of Dmitri Donskoi, Great Prince of Moscow, who received his blessing to the battle of Kulikov of 1380. The monastery started as a little wooden church on Makovets Hill, and then developed and grew stronger through the ages.

Over the centuries a unique ensemble of more than 50 buildings and constructions of different dates were established. The whole complex was erected according to the architectural concept of the main church, the Trinity Cathedral (1422), where the relics of St. Sergius may be seen.

In 1476 Pskovian masters built a brick belfry east of the cathedral dedicated to the Descent of the Holy Spirit on the Apostles. The church combines unique features of early Muscovite and Pskovian architecture. A remarkable feature of this church is a bell tower under its dome without internal interconnection between the belfry and the cathedral itself.

The Cathedral of the Assumption, echoing the Cathedral of the Assumption in the Moscow Kremlin, was erected between 1559 and 1585. The frescoes of the Assumption Cathedral were painted in 1684. At the north-western corner of the Cathedral, on the site of the western porch, in 1780 a vault containing burials of Tsar Boris Godunov and his family was built.

In the 16th century the monastery was surrounded by 6 meters high and 3,5 meters thick defensive walls, which proved their worth during the 16-month siege by  Polish-Lithuanian invaders during the Time of Trouble. They were later strengthened and expanded.

After the Upheaval of the 17th century a large-scale building programme was launched. At this time new buildings were erected in the north-western part of the monastery, including infirmaries topped with a tented church dedicated to Saints Zosima and Sawatiy of Solovki (1635-1637). Few such churches are still preserved, so this tented church with a unique tiled roof is an important contribution to the Lavra.

In the late 17th century a number of new buildings in Naryshkin (Moscow) Baroque style were added to the monastery.

Following a devastating fire in 1746, when most of the wooden buildings and structures were destroyed, a major reconstruction campaign was launched, during which the appearance of many of the buildings was changed to a more monumental style. At this time one of the tallest Russian belfries (88 meters high) was built.

In the late 18th century, when many church lands were secularized, the chaotic planning of the settlements and suburbs around the monastery was replaced by a regular layout of the streets and quarters. The town of Sergiev Posad was surrounded by traditional ramparts and walls. In the vicinity of the monastery a number of buildings belonging to it were erected: a stable yard, hotels, a hospice, a poorhouse, as well as guest and merchant houses. Major highways leading to the monastery were straightened and marked by establishing entry squares, the overall urban development being oriented towards the centrepiece - the Ensemble of the Trinity Sergius Lavra.

In 1993, the Trinity Lavra was inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List.