Tongerlo Abbey

At the request of Lord Giselbert, a wealthy landlord, some norbertines from St Michael’s Abbey of Antwerp came to settle on his estate in Tongerlo around 1130.

This young monastic foundation arose in the context of the renewal movement around Norbert of Gennep, who had started a community of canons regular in Prémontré (F) around 1121.

To maintain its vitality, previously uncultivated land was developed for agricultural use. Periods of prosperity and adversity followed in turn. There were eras of widespread growth and expansion across all sectors of society at the time. Notable were the pastoral services held in forty churches and consistent prayer services supported by steadfast choirs. Alongside diligent care for the needy, extensive patronage was also extended across various fields of art, culture, and science.

On 6 December 1796, the community of Tongerlo was forced into exile. As a result of the French Revolution, the abbey was dissolved and its property sold. This exodus forced Tongerlo to learn to live small in years of trial.

Very battered, with only six survivors out of one hundred and twenty-six, Tongerlo was able to resume communal life in the castle of Broechem in 1837-1840. Courageously, they sought new ways with old values.

On 1 July 1840, a small group returned to Tongerlo. Years of rapid growth and vitality followed. Later this century, intense missionary activity unfolded, first in Great Britain (1872), then in Congo (1892) and also in Chile (1965). Domestically, the vitality of the abbey community was marked by Oostpriesterhulp, the Sports Apostolate, the Liturgical Apostolate and presence in many parishes.

Changing ecclesial and social conditions, which became visible and tangible since Vatican II, teach us to live again with the joy of the Gospel, in fidelity to the celebration of the liturgy and in many forms of hospitality, proclamation, welcome and availability.

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