The Abbey of Nivelles was a former Imperial Abbey of the Holy Roman Empire founded about 648-649 AD by the widow of Pepin of Landen, Itta of Metz, along with her daughter, Gertrude of Nivelles. The abbey began as a community of nuns; they were joined later by Irish monks from the Abbey of Mont Saint-Quentin, sent by Abbot Foillan to give support to the nuns. A group of the monks settled at Nivelles and it soon became a double monastery, led either by an abbot and abbess, later only by an abbess. At that point, the abbey came under the influence of Irish monasticism, with its heavy emphasis on a severe asceticism.
In the 9th century there began a process of secularization of the community which possibly ended in the 12th century. The abbey had close ties to the royal family, and played an important role in the social life of the palace. From the 12th century, the character of the community began to change to a more prestigious one, so that the members became canonesses regular who came from among the nobility, as attested in a document dated 1462. For most of the Middle Ages the Abbey remained an Imperial Abbey, a semi-sovereign institution directly under the king.
The abbey was suppressed after the invasion of the Duchy of Brabant in 1794 by the armies of the First French Republic.
The old abbey church, which became the Collegiate Church of Saint Gertrude under the canonesses, was gutted by aerial bombs dropped by the German Luftwaffe in May 1940 during the Battle of Belgium, but it was restored to its 11th and 13th centuries form after World War II. The site was excavated in 1941 and 1953.
Today the basement of the old abbey holds a number of artifacts and a rich archaeology and is open to the public. The adjoining Romanesque-Gothic cloister dates from the 13th century. A procession is held every year on the Sunday after Michaelmas.References:
The Beckov castle stands on a steep 50 m tall rock in the village Beckov. The dominance of the rock and impression of invincibility it gaves, challenged our ancestors to make use of these assets. The result is a remarkable harmony between the natural setting and architecture.
The castle first mentioned in 1200 was originally owned by the King and later, at the end of the 13th century it fell in hands of Matúš Èák. Its owners alternated - at the end of the 14th century the family of Stibor of Stiborice bought it.
The next owners, the Bánffys who adapted the Gothic castle to the Renaissance residence, improved its fortifications preventing the Turks from conquering it at the end of the 16th century. When Bánffys died out, the castle was owned by several noble families. It fell in decay after fire in 1729.
The history of the castle is the subject of different legends. One of them narrates the origin of the name of castle derived from that of jester Becko for whom the Duke Stibor had the castle built.
Another legend has it that the lord of the castle had his servant thrown down from the rock because he protected his child from the lords favourite dog. Before his death, the servant pronounced a curse saying that they would meet in a year and days time, and indeed precisely after that time the lord was bitten by a snake and fell down to the same abyss.
The well-conserved ruins of the castle, now the National Cultural Monument, are frequently visited by tourists, above all in July when the castle festival takes place. The former Ambro curia situated below the castle now shelters the exhibition of the local history.