The Trappist Abbey of Achel or Saint Benedictus-Abbey is famous for its spiritual life and its brewery, which is one of few Trappist beer breweries in the world. Life in the abbey is characterised by prayer, reading and manual work, the three basic elements of Trappist life.
In 1648, at the end of the Eighty Years War, the Treaty of Münster was signed between Spain and the Netherlands. The result of the treaty was that the Catholic mass was not allowed in the Dutch Republic. Therefore, Catholics from Valkenswaard and Schaft built a chapel in Achel which was part of the Prince-Bishopric of Liège. The early roots of the Abbey date back to 1686, when Petrus van Eynatten, a son of the mayor of Eindhoven, founded a community of hermits of Saint Joseph. The community would flourish until 1789 when they were expelled from their convent after the French revolutionary army invaded the Austrian Netherlands. The abbey was sold to Jan Diederik van Tuyll van Serooskerken.
On 21 March 1846 the Trappists from Westmalle Abbey founded a priory in Achel (first founded in Meersel-Dreef on 3 May 1838 in a former monastery of the Order of Friars Minor Capuchin). The abbey and its 95 hectares of land had been bought by the priest Gast from Heeze on 9 April 1845 with the support of several beneficiaries. The first beer to be brewed on the site was the 'Patersvaatje' in 1852. In 1871, the priory was granted the status of abbey and beer brewing became a regular activity. By reclaiming wasteland, the agriculture and cattle-breeding of the abbey prospered. In addition several daughter-houses were founded in Echt, Diepenveen, Rochefort and the abbey of Notre Dame de l'Emmanuel in Kasanza in 1958 (Belgian Congo).
At the beginning of World War I (1914) the monks left the abbey. The Germans dismantled the brewery in 1917 to salvage the approximately 700 kg of copper. After World War II a new abbey was built between 1946 and 1952, but only two wings of the planned four were completed. In 1989 the abbey sold most of its land to the Dutch National Forest Administration and the Flemish Government. In 1998 with the support from the trappists from Westmalle and Rochefort brewing started again.References:
The Church of Saint Demetrius, or Hagios Demetrios, is the main sanctuary dedicated to Saint Demetrius, the patron saint of Thessaloniki. It is part of the site Palaeochristian and Byzantine Monuments of Thessaloniki on the list of World Heritage Sites by UNESCO since 1988.
The first church on the spot was constructed in the early 4th century AD, replacing a Roman bath. A century later, a prefect named Leontios replaced the small oratory with a larger, three-aisled basilica. Repeatedly gutted by fires, the church eventually was reconstructed as a five-aisled basilica in 629–634. This was the surviving form of the church much as it is today. The most important shrine in the city, it was probably larger than the local cathedral. The historic location of the latter is now unknown.
The church had an unusual shrine called the ciborium, a hexagonal, roofed structure at one side of the nave. It was made of or covered with silver. The structure had doors and inside was a couch or bed. Unusually, it did not hold any physical relics of the saint. The ciborium seems to have been a symbolic tomb. It was rebuilt at least once.
The basilica is famous for six extant mosaic panels, dated to the period between the latest reconstruction and the inauguration of the Byzantine Iconoclasm in 730. These mosaics depict St. Demetrius with officials responsible for the restoration of the church (called the founders, ktetors) and with children. An inscription below one of the images glorifies heaven for saving the people of Thessalonica from a pagan Slavic raid in 615.
Thessaloniki became part of the Ottoman Empire in 1430. About 60 years later, during the reign of Bayezid II, the church was converted into a mosque, known as the Kasımiye Camii after the local Ottoman mayor, Cezeri Kasım Pasha. The symbolic tomb however was kept open for Christian veneration. Other magnificent mosaics, recorded as covering the church interior, were lost either during the four centuries when it functioned as a mosque (1493–1912) or in the Great Thessaloniki Fire of 1917 that destroyed much of the city. It also destroyed the roof and upper walls of the church. Black-and-white photographs and good watercolour versions give an idea of the early Byzantine craftsmanship lost during the fire.
Following the Great Fire of 1917, it took decades to restore the church. Tombstones from the city"s Jewish cemetery - destroyed by the Greek and Nazi German authorities - were used as building materials in these restoration efforts in the 1940s. Archeological excavations conducted in the 1930s and 1940s revealed interesting artifacts that may be seen in a museum situated inside the church"s crypt. The excavations also uncovered the ruins of a Roman bath, where St. Demetrius was said to have been held prisoner and executed. A Roman well was also discovered. Scholars believe this is where soldiers dropped the body of St. Demetrius after his execution. After restoration, the church was reconsecrated in 1949.