Villers Abbey (abbaye de Villers) is an ancient Cistercian abbey in Villers-la-Ville. In 1146, 12 Cistercian monks and three lay brothers from Clairvaux came to Villers in order to establish the abbey on land granted them by Gauthier de Marbais. After establishing several preliminary sites, work was finally undertaken in the 13th century to build the current site. The choir was constructed by 1217, the crypt by 1240, and the refectory by 1267. The church itself took 70 years to build and was completed by the end of the century.
During this period, the abbey reached the height of its fame and importance. Contemporary accounts suggest that roughly 100 monks and 300 lay brothers resided within its walls, although this is possibly an exaggeration. The lands attached to the abbey also expanded considerably, reaching some 100 km² of woods, fields, and pasturage.
Decline set in during the 16th century, tied to the larger troubles of the Low Countries. Spanish tercios, during the campaign of 1544, did considerable damage to the church and cloister, both of which were partially restored in 1587.
In the 17th and 18th centuries, the abbey's fortunes continued to diminish. The number of monks and the abbey's wealth dwindled, and it was finally abandoned in 1796 in the wake of the French Revolution.
The church, although in ruins, is an outstanding example of Cistercian architecture, with imposing vaulting, arches, and rose windows.References:
The Basilica of Santa Maria in Trastevere is one of the oldest churches of Rome. The basic floor plan and wall structure of the church date back to the 340s, and much of the structure to 1140-43. The first sanctuary was built in 221 and 227 by Pope Callixtus I and later completed by Pope Julius I.
The inscription on the episcopal throne states that this is the first church in Rome dedicated to Mary, mother of Jesus, although some claim that privilege belongs to the Basilica di Santa Maria Maggiore. A Christian house-church was founded here about 220 by Pope Saint Callixtus I (217-222) on the site of the Taberna meritoria, a refuge for retired soldiers. The area was made available for Christian use by Emperor Alexander Severus when he settled a dispute between the Christians and tavern-keepers.
The church underwent two restorations in the fifth and eighth centuries and in 1140-43 it was re-erected on its old foundations under Pope Innocent II.