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:
Kroměříž stands on the site of an earlier ford across the River Morava. The gardens and castle of Kroměříž are an exceptionally complete and well-preserved example of a European Baroque princely residence and its gardens and described as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
The first residence on the site was founded by bishop Stanislas Thurzo in 1497. The building was in a Late Gothic style, with a modicum of Renaissance detail. During the Thirty Years' War, the castle was sacked by the Swedish army (1643).
It was not until 1664 that a bishop from the powerful Liechtenstein family charged architect Filiberto Lucchese with renovating the palace in a Baroque style. The chief monument of Lucchese's work in Kroměříž is the Pleasure Garden in front of the castle. Upon Lucchese's death in 1666, Giovanni Pietro Tencalla completed his work on the formal garden and had the palace rebuilt in a style reminiscent of the Turinese school to which he belonged.
After the castle was gutted by a major fire in March 1752, Bishop Hamilton commissioned two leading imperial artists, Franz Anton Maulbertsch and Josef Stern, arrived at the residence in order to decorate the halls of the palace with their works. In addition to their paintings, the palace still houses an art collection, generally considered the second finest in the country, which includes Titian's last mythological painting, The Flaying of Marsyas. The largest part of the collection was acquired by Bishop Karel in Cologne in 1673. The palace also contains an outstanding musical archive and a library of 33,000 volumes.
UNESCO lists the palace and garden among the World Heritage Sites. As the nomination dossier explains, 'the castle is a good but not outstanding example of a type of aristocratic or princely residence that has survived widely in Europe. The Pleasure Garden, by contrast, is a very rare and largely intact example of a Baroque garden'. Apart from the formal parterres there is also a less formal nineteenth-century English garden, which sustained damage during floods in 1997.
Interiors of the palace were extensively used by Miloš Forman as a stand-in for Vienna's Hofburg Imperial Palace during filming of Amadeus (1984), based on the life of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, who actually never visited Kroměříž. The main audience chamber was also used in the film Immortal Beloved (1994), in the piano concerto scene.