Park Abbey: a bit of history
Park Abbey was founded in the 12th century under the influence of Duke Godfrey II, the Bearded one. He owned a large park in Leuven and asked the Norbertines to occupy a small church he had on his grounds, hence the name “Park Abbey”.
As time went by, the buildings were enlarged and the abbey became a place of agriculture as well as academic study.
The history of Park Abbey isn’t without trouble though, as it suffered during the religious wars between the Netherlands and Spain and was confiscated by the French during their Revolution. But it survived, and today a small number of Norbertines still live there and the church itself is still in use.
At the moment, the abbey and its entire domain are being renovated and “reshaped”, changes that will take until 2018 to finish.
A walk in the park
Although Park Abbey is only a 5-minute drive from where I live, I’d only been there twice before. Once for a short stroll and once in the winter to go ice skating on one of the two ponds. Today Boyfriend and I were more ambitious. We were going to walk all around the two ponds and visit the museum.
One of the few things we immediately noticed is the new parking lot in front of the ponds. A great addition, because there weren’t any real parking spaces by the Abbey before and so people would just park in places that seemed more or less adequate.
I took out my camera and off we went.
There’s a path leading all around the ponds and from some points you get a great view of the water and the Abbey. It was very nice walking there in the first spring sun. The trees didn’t have leaves as yet and they let the light through without any protest. I’m sure you can find plenty of shade on this lane in summer, though.
No photos of the Abbey up close, I’m afraid, as the restoration works mean that the building is partly covered by scaffolding and there are working men’s trucks everywhere. With renovations scheduled until 2018, I think I’ll come back here regularly not only to follow the progress, but also to take photos of those parts of the Abbey that are completed.
You don’t expect me to wait until the whole thing is finished, now do you?
Art at Park Abbey
Park Abbey has gathered a large collection of art throughout the ages, as well as over 6,000 old prints. A small part of the art and print collection is already on display at the “locatorium”, now a small museum (free entrance). More items should be disclosed in the future as a larger museum is being worked on.
Abbey Park (website in Dutch)
Abdij van Park 7, Leuven
Where to stay in Leuven
If you’re looking for an apartment rather than a hotel, I recommend checking airbnb. Sign up through my link and get a discount on your first stay!
How to get to Leuven
Leuven can easily be reached by train from other cities as well as from Brussels Airport, which is the best airport to fly to if you plan on visiting Leuven.
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