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Villers, Abbey of

VILLERS, ABBEY OF

Ancient Cistercian abbey (Villarium ) in Belgium (Brabant), Diocese of Namur, founded in 1146, suppressed in 1796.

Villers was founded by Clairvaux, and reached its peak in the 13th century with 100 monks and 300 lay brothers. It established two other houses in Belgium, Grandpré (1231) and Saint-Bernard-sur-l'Escaut (1235), and its jurisdiction was extended over a number of Cistercian nunneries. In the Middle Ages Villers was noted for mysticism, piety, and generosity toward the poor, and more than 60 of its monks were venerated locally. The abbey suffered during the wars of the 16th and 17th centuries, but the 18th brought a new era of prosperity, in which magnificent rebuilding and expansion took place. The French Revolution, secularizing in its wake all monasteries, brought an abrupt end to it. The ruins of the 13th-century Gothic church are the most remarkable monuments of Cistercian architecture in Belgium.

Bibliography: l. h. cottineau, Répertoire topobibliographique des abbayes et prieurés, 2 v. (Mâcon 193539) 2:3395-97. k. hofmann, Lexikon für Theologie und Kirche, ed. m. buchberger, 10 v. (Freiburg 193038) 10:626627. u. chevalier, Répertoire des sources historiques du moyen-âge. Topobiobibliographie, 2 v. (Paris 18941903) 2:3309.

[l. j. lekai]

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