Cambron Abbey is a former Cistercian abbey, today site is now used as a zoo. Twelve monks from Clairvaux arrived at Cambron on August 1, 1148. They were sent by St. Bernard, abbot of Clairvaux. Shortly after its foundation, the abbey grew substantially. It became one of the wealthiest monasteries of Hainault and variously founded, or was given the supervision of, several daughter houses.

By the end of the 14th century, there were more than 70 monks at Cambron. The monks increasingly recruited the aid of lay-brothers to tend the fields. The contribution of agricultural techniques to the local peasantry substantially improved both the status of the rural class and the local economy. After facing difficulties in the 15th century, the abbey contributed greatly in the 16th century to the renaissance in the arts and in theology.

By the 17th century, the abbey had become rich from years of gifts, legacies, and productive agriculture. The abbey enjoyed great renown, but strict adherence to monastic life had begun to loosen. At the end of the 17th century, the wars of King Louis XIV devastated the province of Hainaut and set off the abbey's first period of decline.

At the beginning of the 18th century, a period of peace allowed for new prosperity, and a spate of construction and renovation. The majority of structures still visible at the site today date from this period. The entrance gate of the abbey was given a statuary niche that held an image of the Virgin Mary. The abbey's tower, built under the direction of the architect Jean-François Wincqz, was constructed in a pure Neoclassical style. The carriage house, with five stalls and a dovecote in the center, is unique. The monumental staircase evokes the garden of a palace more than a monastery.

The abbey was still prosperous in 1782, at which time it had 58 monks. But in 1783, Holy Roman Emperor Joseph II ordered Cambron to be dissolved. The decision took effect in 1789 and the monks were expelled from the abbey and went into exile in the Netherlands. The subsequent French occupation would put an end to nine centuries of Cistercian life. Expelled by the Revolutionary government, the monks left the abbey in 1797. The abbey's assets were sold and the buildings torn down by the succeeding owners.

Of the abbey buildings there still remain the tower of the abbey church of 1774, a monumental staircase of 1776, the entire medieval precinct wall and a 13th-century cellar that was formerly beneath the now-vanished lay brothers' quarters, measuring 12 metres by 18 metres with twelve pointed vaults, the main abbey gateway of 1722 and the former abbey farm with an 18th-century coach house. Remains of the former abbey church are kept in Attre Castle.

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Founded: 1148
Category: Religious sites in Belgium

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Lorca Castle

Castle of Lorca (Castillo de Lorca) is a fortress of medieval origin constructed between the 9th and 15th centuries. It consists of a series of defensive structures that, during the Middle Ages, made the town and the fortress an impregnable point in the southeast part of the Iberian Peninsula. Lorca Castle was a key strategic point of contention between Christians and Muslims during the Reconquista.

Archaeological excavations have revealed that the site of the castle has been inhabited since Neolithic times.

Muslim Era

It has not been determined exactly when a castle or fortress was first built on the hill. The first written documentation referring to a castle at Lorca is of Muslim origin, which in the 9th century, indicates that the city of Lurqa was an important town in the area ruled by Theudimer (Tudmir). During Muslim rule, Lorca Castle was an impregnable fortress and its interior was divided into two sections by the Espaldón Wall. In the western part, there was an area used to protect livestock and grain in times of danger. The eastern part had a neighbourhood called the barrio de Alcalá.

After Reconquista

Lorca was conquered by the Castilian Infante Don Alfonso, the future Alfonso X, in 1244, and the fortress became a key defensive point against the Kingdom of Granada. For 250 years, Lorca Castle was a watchpoint on the border between the Christian kingdom of Murcia and the Muslim state of Granada.

Alfonso X ordered the construction of the towers known as the Alfonsina and Espolón Towers, and strengthened and fixed the walls. Hardly a trace of the Muslim fortress remained due to this reconstruction. Muslim traces remain in the foundation stones and the wall known as the muro del Espaldón.

The Jewish Quarter was found within the alcazaba, the Moorish fortification, separated from the rest of the city by its walls. The physical separation had the purpose of protecting the Jewish people in the town from harm, but also had the result of keeping Christians and Jews separate, with the Christians inhabiting the lower part of town.

The remains of the Jewish Quarter extended over an area of 5,700 square m, and 12 homes and a synagogue have been found; the synagogue dates from the 14th century and is the only one found in the Murcia. The streets of the town had an irregular layout, adapted to the landscape, and is divided into four terraces. The synagogue was in the central location, and around it were the homes. The homes were of rectangular shape, with various compartmentalized rooms. The living quarters were elevated and a common feature was benches attached to the walls, kitchens, stand for earthenware jars, or cupboards.

Modern history

With the disappearance of the frontier after the conquest of Granada in 1492, Lorca Castle no longer became as important as before. With the expulsion of the Jews by order of Ferdinand and Isabella, Lorca Castle was also depopulated as a result. The castle was abandoned completely, and was almost a complete ruin by the 18th century. In the 19th century, the castle was refurbished due to the War of Spanish Independence. The walls and structures were repaired or modified and its medieval look changed. A battery of cannons was installed, for example, during this time. In 1931 Lorca Castle was declared a National Historic Monument.

Currently, a parador (luxury hotel) has been built within the castle. As a result, archaeological discoveries have been found, including the Jewish Quarter.