Founded in the 19th century, Maredsous monastery has a much more distant past. In fact, more than a thousand years. Here is a brief summary. So you can see the tradition we stand in and you will perceive our present day characteristics.
The monks of Maredsous are Benedictines. Why this name Benedictine ? Because they follow the rule of life composed by St Benedict (in Latin : “Benedictus”; and also Benedictines refers to his disciples). St Benedict did not create the monastic life, his Rule comes from a tradition.
The Belgian monasteries before the Revolution
Since the Middle Ages, there have been thousands of monasteries for men (monks) and for women (nuns) all over Europe. Periodically those monasteries were reformed and reorganized to be more observant of the Rule and to adapt to a changing world.
Among those restoration movements, we can quote for example the Abbey of Cluny at the beginning of the 10th century and two centuries later, Cîteaux, both in Burgundy. At the end of the 18th century on territory corresponding to Belgium now, there are about 50 Benedictine monasteries (see map above), not counting Cistercian monasteries.
But after the French Revolution, monasteries and religious houses were abolished in our area. They were sold and most of them were destroyed. This was the case for Florennes.
Is it the end of monasticism ? Not at all…
The surviving monks (some of them bought back the buildings of their former abbeys) met great difficulties in rebuilding communities with former monks who had grown old.
Monasteries in Belgium today
The solution would now be elsewhere : new foundations, which would progressively be developed in the 19th and 20th centuries.
Today, Belgian territory has 30 or so Benedictine monasteries.
Maredsous is part of this renewal.