Kontakt / Contact:
Info: +32 (0)57/40.03.76
Lage/How to reach
The abbey and the brewery cannot be visited. Those who are interested can go to the 'claustrum', an exhibition room in which the monks show the life in the abbey. It is situated in the meeting center 'De Vrede', just in front of the abbey.
Open every day from 2pm until 5pm, except on Fridays. From October up to and including March also on Thursdays. Annual leave: first half of January and second half of September.
The 'claustrum' will be closed from the 1st to the 15th of January 2010.
Group visits - Possible Monday to Thursday from 10am to 12am.
- Groups are asked to make an appointment:
tel.: 057/40 18 84
gsm: 0471/ 48 24 63
(Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday from 2pm to 5pm)
Allgemeine Informationen/General information
Historical sources tell us that in the course of time three monasteries had been built in or around Westvleteren before the present abbey was built there. A general historical survey may help the reader to understand some particulars about the abbey.
Benedict's hagiography written by Pope Gregory the Great teaches us that he was born in the eminent Nursia family around 480 A.D. and that he studied in Rome. He turned away from the deterioration of morals in Rome and wanted to be a monk. After a stay in Subiaco he went to Casinum in 529, where he stopped the idolatry in the former temple of Apollo and built a church dedicated to Saint Martin. The rule of Benedict came into being in the abbey of Montecassino, where he was the abbot. His rule was made obligatory for the western world by the Aa chen Council (815 A.D.).
lnitially Flanders was part of the Celtic area, which was also conquered by the Romans. The Romans had to evacuate the region because of continuous raids by the Franks. In the mean time, the north-west of Europe had turned to Christianity. Amongst the major individuals having done missionary work, Amandus from Nantes and Wynfrith, better known as Bonifacius (675-754) should be mentioned. The former was a hermit before he became a monk, the latter was a monk in the Abbey of Nursling before he undertook missionary trips to Germany.
The Scheldt formed a natural border in the 9th century A.D. The Counts of Flanders were the vassals of the King of France for the areas to the west of the river, and of the German monarch for the areas to the east of it. (CELLA BEBORNA - 806)
Those old feudal bonds with France explained the French tendency to interfere with Flemish politics. The Flemish tried to shake off the yoke, but never succeeded, despite temporary successes such as the Battle of the Spurs in Courtrai in 1302. (DOMUS SANCTI SIXTI WESTFLETERNES - 1260 - 1355)
By the marriage of Margaret of Flanders, daughter of the Flemish Count Louis of Maie, and Philip the Bold, Duke of Burgundy and brother of the French King, Flanders got integrated into a larger political entity and entered a culturally flourishing period in the 15th century A.D.
Flanders was a part of the Burgundian Realm, that had become quite vast by several territorial expansions under the successive Dukes of Burgundy.
After Charles the Bold had died in the Battle of Nancy, Flanders was governed by his daughter Mary of Burgundy, who was married to Maximilian of Austria, the son of the German Emperor Frederic III. After her death, her widower became a regent and Flanders came under the sphere of influence of the Habsburg Empire.
Emperor Charles V reigned over an immense area including the Low Countries, the German Empire, Spain and parts of America. In the beginning of the 16th century A.D. any feudal bond with France was broken off. Because of the vastness of the Habsburg Empire, also called the Holy Roman Empire, it became hard to administrate and pockets of resistance arose. In this period of unrest religious wars were fought (reformation). Religiously speaking, that situation ended up in the Trent Council (1 545) and the Augsburg Peace Treaty (1 555), stipulating that the ruler of each state in the Empire could choose which religion to adhere to, either the Catholic or the Lutheran religion (cuius regio, eius religio).
That didn't prevent further conflicts in the region. The Pacification of Ghent (1 576) was an attempt to unite the Seventeen Provinces against Spain on the basis of religious tolerance. lt failed. The Spanish armies moved up and it was not until 1648 that The Thirty Years' War ended with theMunsterTreaty, also called the Peace of Westfalen. lt meant that the Southern Provinces remained under the rule of the Spanish Habsburgers, who tried to bring about a revival of Catholicism (Counter Reformation). (BIRGITTANS - 1615 - 1784)
King Louis XIV occupied part of the Southern Provinces. There were battles fought between the French armies and those of England and the United Provinces. They were all fought on Southern Provinces' territory. The outcome was that the Southern Provinces, who had no say in the matter, came under the rule of the Austrian Habsburgers (the Treaty of Utrecht, 1713).
Emperor Joseph II, called the emperor-sexton, abolished the contemplative orders. In 1794 the French won the Battle of Fleurus against the Austrians and they annexed Flanders and made it a French 'département'. The confiscation of church properties and religious persecutions smothered any chance of revival of abbey-life in the region.
When the Napoleonic era ended with the Battle of Waterloo in 1815, the Vienna Congress decided, without consulting the people concerned, to unite the Southern and Northern Low Countries under the rule of King William I. The people of both areas had grown apart in the previous 200 years and were religiously different (Catholicism vs. Protestantism). Mutual tensions resuited in the Brabant Revolution in 1830 and Belgium became an independent country.
Shortly after, in 1881, the present Saint Sixtus Abbey was founded in Westvleteren, situated in the Belgian province of West-Flanders. In this new state with a parliamentary democracy and a new constitution guaranteeing freedom of religion, a budding abbey-life was made possible again. (TRAPPIST ABBEY ST. SIXTUS 1831 - ?)