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 also founded in Ghent during the same period St. Peter's Abbey and St. Bavo's Abbey. The first occupants were secular canons. The Normans destroyed the abbey in 853 but under Baldwin II, Count of Flanders (879–918), lord of Drongen, it was rebuilt.
In 1136 Iwein, Count of Aalst, lord of Waas, Drongen and Liedekerke, founded a Premonstratensian abbey at Salegem. Two years later, in 1138, the new abbey was moved to Drongen, when the canons accepted the Premonstratensian rules.
In 1566 the abbey suffered from the Beeldenstormer (Iconoclasts), and in 1578, during the Ghent Republic, the Calvinists drove out the fathers, who took refuge in the Hof van Drongen, and destroyed the abbey. Its possessions fell into the hands of William the Silent, but were given back by his heirs.
The abbey church was rebuilt in 1638, and the monastic buildings between 1638 and 1698, leaving the abbey much the same as it is now. In 1796, during the French Revolution, the fathers were again driven out, and the abbey suppressed and sold off. Lieven Bauwens installed a cotton mill, which went bankrupt in 1836, and a dyeworks using madder root.
In 1836 the Jesuits bought part of the abbey buildings for the use of their novices, and in 1848 they bought the remainder of the property. The training continued until 1968, when it stopped for want of vocations, but they continued to provide meditations and retreats, for individuals and groups, and thus the abbey became a retreat centre. Older Jesuits continued to live there, and the abbey also became a Jesuit retirement home.
The octagonal abbey church in white stone, with a small cupola, was rebuilt in 1734 after a fire. Known as St. Gerolf's Church, it now serves as the parish church of the centre of Drongen.References:
The first historical record of Lednice locality dates from 1222. At that time there stood a Gothic fort with courtyard, which was lent by Czech King Václav I to Austrian nobleman Sigfried Sirotek in 1249.
At the end of the 13th century the Liechtensteins, originally from Styria, became holders of all of Lednice and of nearby Mikulov. They gradually acquired land on both sides of the Moravian-Austrian border. Members of the family most often found fame in military service, during the Renaissance they expanded their estates through economic activity. From the middle of the 15th century members of the family occupied the highest offices in the land. However, the family’s position in Moravia really changed under the brothers Karel, Maximilian, and Gundakar of Liechtenstein. Through marriage Karel and Maximilian acquired the great wealth of the old Moravian dynasty of the Černohorskýs of Boskovice. At that time the brothers, like their father and grandfather, were Lutheran, but they soon converted to Catholicism, thus preparing the ground for their rise in politics. Particularly Karel, who served at the court of Emperor Rudolf II, became hetman of Moravia in 1608, and was later raised to princely status by King Matyas II and awarded the Duchy of Opava.
During the revolt of the Czech nobility he stood on the side of the Habsburgs, and took part in the Battle of White Mountain. After the uprising was defeated in 1620 he systematically acquired property confiscated from some of the rebels, and the Liechtensteins became the wealthiest family in Moravia, rising in status above the Žerotíns. Their enormous land holdings brought them great profits, and eventually allowed them to carry out their grandious building projects here in Lednice.
In the 16th century it was probably Hartmann II of Liechtenstein who had the old medieval water castle torn down and replaced with a Renaissance chateau. At the end of the 17th century the chateau was torn down and a Baroque palace was built, with an extensive formal garden, and a massive riding hall designed by Johann Bernard Fischer von Erlach that still stands in almost unaltered form.
In the mid-18th century the chateau was again renovated, and in 1815 its front tracts that had been part of the Baroque chateau were removed.
The chateau as it looks today dates from 1846-1858, when Prince Alois II decided that Vienna was not suitable for entertaining in the summer, and had Lednice rebuilt into a summer palace in the spirit of English Gothic. The hall on the ground floor would serve to entertain the European aristocracy at sumptuous banquets, and was furnished with carved wood ceilings, wooden panelling, and select furniture, surpassing anything of its kind in Europe.