If you are looking for a peaceful and historical place to visit, then Tongerlo Abbey is a perfect destination. Located in the Antwerp Province of Belgium, Tongerlo Abbey is a picturesque and serene location that offers visitors a unique glimpse into the country’s rich history and culture. This article will guide you on what to expect and what to see when you visit Tongerlo Abbey.
History of Tongerlo Abbey
Tongerlo Abbey, located in the picturesque Belgian town of Westerlo, has a history that dates back over 800 years. Home to a thriving monastic community, Tongerlo Abbey has played a significant role in the spiritual and cultural life of Flanders. Today, visitors come from far and wide to experience the abbey’s tranquil beauty and explore its fascinating history.
The Founding of Tongerlo Abbey
Tongerlo Abbey was founded in 1130 by Norbertine monks who sought to establish a community that combined the contemplative life of a monastery with active ministry. The original community consisted of just a handful of monks, who lived in simple wooden huts while they constructed the abbey’s buildings.
Over the centuries, Tongerlo Abbey grew in size and importance, with numerous additions and renovations being made to its buildings. Despite its many changes, however, the abbey has managed to preserve much of its original character, and visitors today can still see the simple beauty and elegance of the abbey’s early architecture. The oldest building is the entrance portal that dates back from the 14th century.
The Religious Significance of Tongerlo Abbey
Tongerlo Abbey has long been known as a place of great spiritual significance. As a Norbertine abbey, Tongerlo follows the Rule of St. Augustine, which emphasizes the importance of community and active ministry. For centuries, the monks of Tongerlo Abbey have worked to serve their community, providing education, healthcare, and pastoral care to those in need.
In addition to its spiritual and social contributions, Tongerlo Abbey has also been an important center of art and learning. The abbey’s library contains a wealth of rare manuscripts and books, many of which are hundreds of years old. The abbey’s archives also hold numerous historical documents and records, providing a fascinating glimpse into the past.
Life at Tongerlo Abbey: Monks, Artisans, and Brewers
Life at Tongerlo Abbey has always been centered around the community of monks who live and work there. In addition to their spiritual duties, the monks of Tongerlo have also been skilled artisans and craftsmen, producing a wide range of goods. One of the most famous products of the Abbey, however, is its beer. The abbey has been brewing beer for centuries, using traditional methods and recipes that have been handed down through generations of monks. Up until today, Tongerlo is popular Belgian beer that can be found across the country.
Location of the Tongerlo Abbey
The Tongerlo Abbey is located in the municipality of Westerlo in the province of Antwerp. There are large parking spaces available in front of the abbey.
Getting to Tongerlo Abbey
Tongerlo Abbey is easily accessible by car. If you’re driving, you can take the E313 highway to Westerlo and then follow the signs to the abbey. When traveling by train, the closest trainstations are Herentals, Olen and Geel. You can take a bus from one of these trainstations to continue your journey. There is a bus stop right in front of the Abbey.
For more information, check out the Belgium Public Transport Guide
Visiting Tongerlo Abbey
Upon arrival, the beauty of the abbey’s surroundings will charm you. The abbey rests in a park-like setting which encompasses a pond, gardens, and wooded areas. A beautiful example of Gothic architecture, the abbey houses various historical artifacts and art.
The Abbey Church
The abbey church is the main attraction at Tongerlo Abbey. The church is a beautiful example of Gothic architecture and features stained-glass windows, vaulted ceilings, and intricate stone carvings.
Replica of the “Last Supper” by Leonardo da Vinci
Since 1545 the Abbey possesses an extraordinary piece of artwork which is the most authentic and exquisite replica of the ‘Last Supper’, created by Leonardo da Vinci. The original painting, has unfortunately suffered significant damage over time, resulting in the loss of much of its original magnificence. Therefore, this ‘Last Supper’ replica holds even greater value
Please note that the museum closed on November 1st, 2021, for the restoration and relocation of the painting. As a result, the museum is currently inaccessible. The restoration is set to conclude by the end of 2023, following which the artwork will be showcased in the abbey church.
The Abbey Brewery
One of the unique features of Tongerlo Abbey is its brewery. The abbey has been brewing beer since the 16th century, and visitors can take a tour of the brewery and sample the abbey’s famous beer. Nowadays the production of Tongerlo beer takes places at the large industrial brewery of Haacht. Most cafés and pubs in the area sell Tongerlo beer. It can also be commonly found in supermarkets across the country.
The Abbey Gardens
The abbey gardens are a beautiful and peaceful place to relax and enjoy the abbey’s surroundings. The gardens feature a variety of plants and flowers, and there are several walking paths that visitors can follow. The gardens are a great place to take a picnic or to simply sit and enjoy the scenery.
Tongerlo Abbey is a beautiful and historical destination that shouldn’t be missed. From the abbey church to the Da Vinci Museum, there’s something for everyone to enjoy. So, if you’re looking for a peaceful and historical place to visit, be sure to add Tongerlo Abbey to your travel itinerary.