St Benedictus Abdij - Achel

- History of the Abbey - Origins

The Monastery of Our lady of Saint-Benedict is located in the town of Achel, in Campine (Belgian Limburg). The buildings of the Abbey are in Belgium, but the garden is almost completely in Holland. It is a vast property which is skirted by the railway line between Hasselt (Belgium), 40 kilometers from Achel, and Eindhoven (Holland), 20 kilometers away.

It is in the garden (in Belgian territory) that, during the first World War, the Germans tightened electric wire, as they did throughout the Dutch-Belgian border, to prevent the Belgians going to Holland and, from there, England or France.

In 1687, in Meersel, a small hamlet near the town of Merle (district of Turnhout), a Monastery was raised by Jean de Wyse, a rich ship-owner of Breda. It was intended to receive Capuchins. This convent stayed prosperous until the Revolution, and was then sold, like so many others, while the monks were expelled.

In 1838, a vicar of Meerle, serving the hamlet of Meersel, began talks with the father abbot of Westmalle. The vicar wanted monks from Westmalle to repopulate the old residence, and it was decided that a foundation of Trappists would be created. Arrangements were concluded and signed on March 16, 1838.

As of May 1, Dom Martin, Abbot of Our Lady of the Sacred Heart, sent monks to Meersel, assigning Father Abbot Yves BOR as their superior. However, Father BOR quickly realized he was not ready for these new responsibilities and required to become a simple monk again. He was allowed to withdraw from this assignment in April 1839. A few days later he was replaced by Father Abbot Joseph-Marie De Moock, Master of the Beginners at Westmalle, who was canonically elected and installed as Prior in 1844. The community increased gradually, and by 1846 counted sixteen monks of chorus and fourteen convers…

Unfortunately, the Monastery of Meersel was not appropriate for contemplative monks who did not find calms and silence necessary to their life.

At this time, one learned that another convent, located at Achel, was to be sold…

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