Timeline

  • 1146
    An abbey is founded in Villers

    In 1146, the knight Gauthier de Marbais and his mother Judith invited the monks of the abbey of Clairvaux (France) to found a new abbey at Villers on their lands. A small group of 17 monks established themselves at Villers.

  • 1146
    Building a Romanesque abbey

    In 1146, Saint Bernard visited the new community and encouraged them. Thanks to the Lord of Marbais and his mother, the monks had construction materials – a stone quarry, forest and river – to build a Romanesque-style abbey.

    Visite de saint Bernard à la nouvelle communauté de Villers
  • 1197
    Building a new abbey

    A new building project began in 1197. The abbey became Gothic and took more than 100 years to build. During this very wealthy period, the almost 400 monks in the community owned almost 10,000 hectares of land, stretching as far as Antwerp.

    L'église, vue en coupe
  • 1508
    Invasions: the monks leave the Abbey

    From 1508, the date of the first invasion until the end of the 17th century, the monks, fearing for their safety, had to leave the site nine times. Brick was used to repair damaged buildings while the monks were absent.

  • 1715-1784
    Construction of new Neoclassical buildings

    The 18th century was the Abbey’s second golden age. The medieval buildings were reconstructed in Neoclassical style. The Abbot’s Palace and its gardens were built.

    L'abbaye de Villers à la veille de la Révolution...
  • 1796
    Destruction of the Abbey

    The French Revolution chased the monks away. The Abbey was sacked and pillaged in 1794 and then sold to a builders’ merchant, who dismantled it piece by piece. Vegetation and rain did the rest... The Abbey fell into ruins.

    Pillage du palais abbatial par les troupes françaises...
  • 1830
    Romantic Villers

    The majestic ruins attracted the Romantics throughout the 19th century, just as they do today! Victor Hugo, who visited Villers three times, drew the ruins of the hostel/brewery.

    Victor Hugo, en visite à Villers en 1862, dessine les ruines de l'hôtellerie...
  • 1854-1855
    The first tourists

    The Ottignies-Charleroi line was built, bringing the first tourists to the Abbey. As people were not yet sufficiently aware of heritage, the line crossed the Abbot’s Palace gardens.

  • 1893-1914
    The Abbey is given a new look

    A year after taking over ownership of the site, the State undertook a big restoration and consolidation scheme, directed by the architect Charles Licot. In 1893, the nave of the church was cleared out and the dressed stones classified.

    Déblaiement de la nef et tri des pierres de taille sous la direction de Charles Licot en 1893...
  • 1972
    Historic monument

    In 1972, the ruins were classified as a historic site and monument. With 650 years of occupation, the ruins provide evidence of the development of agricultural styles.

  • 1984
    Consolidation

    The restoration works were interrupted by the two world wars. It was not until 1984 that a new consolidation scheme could begin.

  • 1992
    Exceptional heritage

    In 1992, the Abbey was classified as part of Wallonia’s exceptional heritage. The whole estate was preserved: its 50,000 m2 of walls preserved above ground and its 5,000 mof Romanesque and Gothic vaults make it one of the biggest archaeological sites in Belgium.

  • 2010
    Development work

    Development and reunification work on the site was undertaken in 2010. The completion of the works in the spring saw the opening of a new visitor route, a stage area and a timeline.

    Plan du domaine
  • 2012
    A new Medicinal Herb Garden

    Opened in 2012, the Medicinal Herb Garden consists of about one hundred medicinal plants. This medievally inspired garden is utilitarian, symbolic and contemplative, inviting you to recharge your batteries.

    Le Jardin des Simples
  • 2014
    Maintenance work

    After important maintenance work, some areas that had been closed for years were once again made accessible to visitors in summer 2014. The prison, the monumental Montaigu staircase, the cellars of the Abbot’s Palace: so many places to rediscover.

    Les caves du palais de l'Abbé
  • 2015
    Two new gardens

    Opened in September 2015, the Abbot’s Garden and the Monks’ Garden include almost 250 species of medicinal, aromatic, culinary and dye plants. These gardens, devoted to the well-being of the body and the mind, complete the Medicinal Herb Garden.

    Le Jardin des Moines
  • 2016
    More than 100,000 visitors a year...

    Following in the footsteps of the faithful, the poor and the pilgrims, today the Abbey continues to attract hundreds of thousands of visitors a year seeking a change of scene, relaxation or spirituality

    Un événement à l'abbaye de Villers