I’d never heard of the Abbey of Villers-la-Ville (Abbaye de Villers-la-Ville) until I started researching things to do all over Belgium. When I looked up some photos online, I couldn’t believe I hadn’t. This place looked amazing!
But we all know what illusions great photographers can create and so I drove to the abbey on a sunny afternoon to check it out for myself.
The Abbey of Villers-la-Ville: a bit of history
The history of the Abbey of Villers-la-Ville dates back to the 12th century when Cistercian monks from the Abbey of Clairvaux were sent out to start a second Abbey in the name of St. Bernard. Not an easy task, as they had to move twice before finally settling on a location in the 13th century. That location is where we can still visit the ruins of the Abbey today.
The Abbey flourished as a cultural and agricultural center until the end of the Middle Ages. After that, religious and political troubles caused unrest until the 18th century when the Abbey experienced a second Golden Age under the rule of Joseph II and later also under Leopold II. However, the French Revolution was near and just as Park Abbey and the St. Bernard Abbey of Hemiksem, the Abbey of Villers-la-Ville was dissolved and sold off to a merchant in building material.
This merchant broke down large parts of the Abbey to sell the materials. In 1820, Charles-Lambert Houart bought the domain, but this didn’t turn out to be an improvement as he allowed for a railroad running right through the domain to be built, earning a decent cent from that.
It wasn’t until 1893 that the Belgian State stepped in, purchased the domain and started renovation works. At the moment, a second restoration is being performed.
Visiting the Abbey
To say the amazing photos I’d seen of the Abbey of Villers-la-Ville weren’t illusions would be an understatement. When I made that left turn to where my GPS said the Abbey would be, I suddenly drove through an old gate and immediately on my left was this huge structure. It was part of the Abbey and the road to reach it actually runs through the domain, with the Abbey on the left and a secondary building, now used as a bistro, on the right.
I left my car on the parking lot, took out my camera and paid the €6 to get in. For that price I also got a map with detailed information about what I’d see on the domain and a brochure about the Abbey’s medicinal herb garden.
The next two hours I spent wandering around. Trying out every little pathway I could find, trying to imagine what this place had looked like in its glory days.
There were a few other visitors as well, but not as much as the Abbey of Villers-la-Ville deserves. This really is a magnificent structure and an interesting place not only for adults, but for kids as well.
I hope the following photos will convince you all to go there, and when you do, please tell me afterward if you liked it just as much as I did.
Abbey of Villers-la-Ville
Rue de l’Abbaye 55, Villers-la-Ville
Entrance fee: €6 for adults – multiple discounts available
How to get there: unfortunately, there are no public buses going to the Abbey. You have to drive there or take the train to the station of Villers-la-Ville, from where it’s 2 km to the entrance of the Abbey.