An abbey steeped in 900 years of history
TEXT: NDÉLA FAYE | PHOTOS © ABBAYE DE VILLERS ASBL
Founded in 1146, Abbaye des Villers was home to monks of the Cistercian Order for 650 years, until all abbeys were nationalised and sold to individual buyers under French rule. With activities to draw in the whole family, the abbey continues to attract visitors looking for new discoveries, relaxation and serenity.
Located in the commune of Villers-la-Ville, Belgium – about halfway between Brussels and Charleroi – Abbaye de Villers (Villers Abbey) is the most complete site of a Cistercian abbey anywhere in Europe. It spans over 30 hectares of land. “What makes the Villers abbey unique is the number of ruins that show us what everyday life at a monastery was like, such as the gatehouse, a prison – which is a very rare sight at a monastery – a guesthouse and a mill, preserved in its entirety,” explains Michel Dubuisson, historian and assistant director at Abbaye de Villers.
Drawing in over 150,000 visitors annually, the abbey is open throughout the year and has activities to suit all ages. There is everything from interactive tours and guided group visits to family discovery walks and activity days, as well as open air concerts, theatre shows, exhibitions and a medieval festival, organised annually in the region.
The abbey also boasts beautiful gardens, full of medicinal plants and space for meditation. “Our medicinal herb gardens include nearly 250 species of plants, devoted to the wellbeing of the body and the mind. Following in the footsteps of the abbey’s colourful 900-year history, the abbey continues to attract visitors looking for a change of scenery, relaxation, and spirituality,” Dubuisson concludes.