Villers Abbey (Abbaye de Villers) was founded in 1158 in what is now the province of Wallonia in Belgium. It was a Cistercian abbey which emphasized a life of manual labor and self-sufficiency. Many of these abbeys would have traditionally supported themselves with activities such as agriculture and brewing beer.
Although founded in the twelfth century, most construction did not start until the early thirteenth century. The church took 70 years to build and was completed by the end of the 13th century. At the height of its importance, the abbey had about 100 monks and 300 lay brothers living inside its walls.
Decline set in during the 16th century, due to political instability in the low countries of north-western Europe. In the 17th and 18th century , the abbey’s fortunes continued to diminish and it was finally abandoned in 1796 in the wake of the French Revolution.
Now after considerable restoration it is an amazing tourist stop. The church, although in ruins, is an outstanding example of Cistercian architecture with imposing vaulting, arches and rose windows.
Many thanks to our friend Greg for his vivid portrayal of a monk seeking out the brew house!