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 to endow a Cistercian monastery for nuns.
In 1217 the abbey was formally accepted into the Cistercian Order, the first, and also the greatest and wealthiest, women's monastery of the Order in the Low Countries. The nuns referred to themselves as the 'noble ladies of the Order of Cîteaux of the County of Loon'.
After Count Gerard was killed during the Third Crusade at the Siege of Acre in 1191, his body was brought back by the same Archbishop Rudolph, who had led an army to the siege. Rudolph reached, though, only as far as Switzerland, dying there on the way home. Gerard was buried in the church of the abbey he had founded, which from then on became the burial place of all the Counts of Loon. This custom continued up to the last Count to die with that title, Dietrich of Sponheim (d. 1361), who was refused burial here because he had been excommunicated.
In 1366 the County of Loon passed into the possession of the Prince-Bishops of Liège, with whom the nuns succeeded in remaining on good terms.
During the 15th century the abbey, like many others, suffered a severe decline, but from around 1500 enjoyed a revival. In the 18th century a total reconstruction was planned, of which the Neo-Classical abbesses' lodgings was built, as well as an English garden, still intact, with exotic trees.
The French Revolutionary Army invaded the region in 1795 and annexed it to France. During a policy of anti-Catholic measures which were in effect from 1795-1799, they seized the abbey and expelled the nuns, as a result of which the monastic community was permanently dispersed. The abbey was sold to Claes and Libotton, after which the buildings gradually fell into disrepair. In 1826 a fire destroyed much of the church, which had been in use as a factory, after the stained glass windows had been replaced by clear glass. In 1844 the remaining ruins were demolished, including the mausoleum of the Counts of Loon. Many artworks from the church have survived and are kept in museums.
In 1972 the Canonesses Regular of the Holy Sepulchre bought part of the old abbey grounds with their remaining buildings. They have since built a new monastery and retreat center. Ten years later, they built the Church of the Risen Lord, which now serves the canonesses and their guests.
Much restoration work has taken place on the remaining buildings of the previous abbey, all of which date from the 16th-18th centuries.References:
Derbent is the southernmost city in Russia, occupying the narrow gateway between the Caspian Sea and the Caucasus Mountains connecting the Eurasian steppes to the north and the Iranian Plateau to the south. Derbent claims to be the oldest city in Russia with historical documentation dating to the 8th century BCE. Due to its strategic location, over the course of history, the city changed ownership many times, particularly among the Persian, Arab, Mongol, Timurid, Shirvan and Iranian kingdoms.
Derbent has archaeological structures over 5,000 years old. As a result of this geographic peculiarity, the city developed between two walls, stretching from the mountains to the sea. These fortifications were continuously employed for a millennium and a half, longer than any other extant fortress in the world.
A traditionally and historically Iranian city, the first intensive settlement in the Derbent area dates from the 8th century BC. The site was intermittently controlled by the Persian monarchs, starting from the 6th century BC. Until the 4th century AD, it was part of Caucasian Albania which was a satrap of the Achaemenid Persian Empire. In the 5th century Derbent functioned as a border fortress and the seat of Sassanid Persians. Because of its strategic position on the northern branch of the Silk Route, the fortress was contested by the Khazars in the course of the Khazar-Arab Wars. In 654, Derbent was captured by the Arabs.
The Sassanid fortress does not exist any more, as the famous Derbent fortress as it stands today was built from the 12th century onward. Derbent became a strong military outpost and harbour of the Sassanid empire. During the 5th and 6th centuries, Derbent also became an important center for spreading the Christian faith in the Caucasus.
The site continued to be of great strategic importance until the 19th century. Today the fortifications consist of two parallel defence walls and Naryn-Kala Citadel. The walls are 3.6km long, stretching from the sea up to the mountains. They were built from stone and had 73 defence towers. 9 out of the 14 original gates remain.
In Naryn-Kala Citadel most of the old buildings, including a palace and a church, are now in ruins. It also holds baths and one of the oldest mosques in the former USSR.
In 2003, UNESCO included the old part of Derbent with traditional buildings in the World Heritage List.