A monastery founded in the nineteenth century, Maredsous depends on a much more distant past. More than a thousand years old, in fact. We will briefly review it here. You will know better in which tradition we are situated, you will better perceive our own character today.
The monks of Maredsous are Benedictines. Why this Benedictine name? Because they follow a Rule of life composed by Saint Benedict (in Latin = Benedictus; hence Benedictines, to designate his disciples). Saint Benedict did not invent monastic life, his Rule is heir to a whole tradition.
The Belgian monasteries before the Revolution
Since the Middle Ages, thousands of monasteries of men (monks) and women (nuns) practicing the Benedictine Rule have been created throughout Europe. Periodically these monasteries are reformed, reorganized with a view to a return to the more faithful practice of the Rule and an adaptation to a changing world.
Among these restoration movements, let us quote, for example, the abbey of Cluny, for the beginning of the tenth century, and, two centuries later, that of Cîteaux, both in Burgundy. At the end of the eighteenth century, in the territory corresponding to present-day Belgium, there were about fifty Benedictine monasteries (see map), not counting the Cistercian monasteries.
But, following the French Revolution, monasteries and religious houses were suppressed in our regions; they are sold and, for the most part, destroyed. Such was the case of Florennes for example (see opposite).
Is this the end of monasticism? No.
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.