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 Church of Our Lady before Týn is a dominant feature of the Old Town of Prague and has been the main church of this part of the city since the 14th century. The church's towers are 80 m high and topped by four small spires.
In the 11th century, this area was occupied by a Romanesque church, which was built there for foreign merchants coming to the nearby Týn Courtyard. Later it was replaced by an early Gothic Church of Our Lady before Týn in 1256. Construction of the present church began in the 14th century in the late Gothic style under the influence of Matthias of Arras and later Peter Parler. By the beginning of the 15th century, construction was almost complete; only the towers, the gable and roof were missing. The church was controlled by Hussites for two centuries, including John of Rokycan, future archbishop of Prague, who became the church's vicar in 1427. The roof was completed in the 1450s, while the gable and northern tower were completed shortly thereafter during the reign of George of Poděbrady (1453–1471). His sculpture was placed on the gable, below a huge golden chalice, the symbol of the Hussites. The southern tower was not completed until 1511, under architect Matěj Rejsek.
After the lost Battle of White Mountain (1620) began the era of harsh recatholicisation (part of the Counter-Reformation). Consequently, the sculptures of 'heretic king' George of Poděbrady and the chalice were removed in 1626 and replaced by a sculpture of the Virgin Mary, with a giant halo made from by melting down the chalice. In 1679 the church was struck by lightning, and the subsequent fire heavily damaged the old vault, which was later replaced by a lower baroque vault.
Renovation works carried out in 1876–1895 were later reversed during extensive exterior renovation works in the years 1973–1995. Interior renovation is still in progress.
The northern portal is a wonderful example of Gothic sculpture from the Parler workshop, with a relief depicting the Crucifixion. The main entrance is located on the church's western face, through a narrow passage between the houses in front of the church.
The early baroque altarpiece has paintings by Karel Škréta from around 1649. The oldest pipe organ in Prague stands inside this church. The organ was built in 1673 by Heinrich Mundt and is one of the most representative 17th-century organs in Europe.