In 1236 the Trappistine Brecht monastery of Our Lady of Nazareth at Lier (Duchy of Brabant) was accepted into the Cistercian Order. Blessed Beatrice of Nazareth (1200-1268) was its first prioress.
For five centuries the abbey flourished, until 1797, when it was closed in the aftermath of the French Revolution, when the French Revolutionary Army occupied the Austrian Netherlands. The abbey did not recover from the closure even after the Belgian Revolution in 1830, when Belgium gained independence from the United Kingdom of the Netherlands.
In the early 20th century several attempts were made to re-establish the abbey at different locations. During World War II in 1943, Henri van Ostayen was in favor of locating the new abbey in Brecht, of which he was burgomaster, but was killed in Antwerp by a V-1 flying bomb before the end of the war. His proposal was however taken up by Dom Robertus (Edward Jozef Modest) Eyckmans, Abbot of the nearby Trappist Westmalle Abbey. He was able to obtain the agreement of Soleilmont Abbey to provide the 12 nuns necessary to settle a new foundation. On 12 October 1945 the organization for founding a new abbey was established, and in 1946 about 16 hectares of land were acquired in Brecht for the new building, as the old site in Lier was no longer available. The monks of Westmalle Abbey prepared the site of the nuns' monastery, which was ready by the end of 1949.
Thirteen Trappistine nuns left Soleilmont and headed for Brecht on 23 June 1950: Abbess Agnes Swevers with Sisters Lucia Delaere, Heleen Steylaers, Humbelina Roelandts, Idesbalda van Soest, Lutgard Smeets, Maria Marlier, Petra Belet, Juliana Rutten, Harlindis Gerits, Roberta Koeken, Alberica Hauchecorne, and novice Roza van den Bosch. The monastery was formally opened in 1950, and in 1951 it was raised to the status of an independent abbey. The church was dedicated in 1954.
The nuns in the abbey produce several products under the International Trappist Association seal, such as cosmetics, cleaning products, liturgical objects, as well as hand-crafted banners and flags.References:
The Broch of Gurness is an Iron Age broch village. Settlement here began sometime between 500 and 200 BC. At the centre of the settlement is a stone tower or broch, which once probably reached a height of around 10 metres. Its interior is divided into sections by upright slabs. The tower features two skins of drystone walls, with stone-floored galleries in between. These are accessed by steps. Stone ledges suggest that there was once an upper storey with a timber floor. The roof would have been thatched, surrounded by a wall walk linked by stairs to the ground floor. The broch features two hearths and a subterranean stone cistern with steps leading down into it. It is thought to have some religious significance, relating to an Iron Age cult of the underground.
The remains of the central tower are up to 3.6 metres high, and the stone walls are up to 4.1 metres thick.