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Our history

Two abbeys

Roosendael is almost 800 years old. It owes its name to the Cistercian abbey that was founded here, on the Nete, around 1221. Today, apart from a few wall remnants, hardly anything remains above ground of this medieval fortress. After all, the religious wars did not pass this region by. The abbey was looted several times in the 16th century and finally completely demolished under Calvinist rule. Reconstruction did not start until 1648.

Today it is hard to imagine that an impressive abbey complex with a beautiful baroque church was built here at the end of the 17th century. The current ring canal and the so-called Pesthuis are remnants from that time. The name 'Pesthuis' is probably very recent and based on a misunderstanding. Because the house was completely separate, people came up with the idea in the 20th century that it had been an infirmary for plague sufferers. However, no document points in that direction. The statement that the name Pesthuis originates from pistorij - pistor is Latin for baker - may also be incorrect. The description 'pistorij' is indeed more common elsewhere as a synonym for bakery, but there is no indication that the Pesthuis was ever a bakery. On the contrary, everything indicates that the bakery was located elsewhere on the domain.

The Poortgebouw dates from 1777. It was built on the occasion of the 25th anniversary of Abbess Agnes Haegens.

The same abbess also built the Coach House in 1781. Things were clearly going well for the sisters then. It is no coincidence that Count de Ferraris called this rich abbey: "after Mechelen the most remarkable place in the area." And the man knew what he was talking about: it was he who mapped the Austrian Netherlands.

Moments later, however, disaster struck again. In 1797, under French rule, the religious were expelled for good. The abbey was sold and largely demolished to monetize the building material. Apart from the buildings already mentioned, part of the abbess quarters still remained standing.

country estate

The descendants of the buyer turned the domain into a country estate with a landscape park. The paths, some monumental trees and the remarkable collection of stinsen plants still bear witness to this.

It was probably also these owners who built an icehouse under an artificial hill, roughly on the spot where the church used to stand.

In any case, the new residents converted the abbesses' quarter around 1840 into 'Château de Roosendael'. However, during the First World War, this classicist castle was set on fire. The remains were preserved as ruins. This ruin is now covered and furnished as a meeting room.

In 1920 the ruined castle was replaced by the current Landhuis. The last owner, Marguerite Pirard, used it as a country retreat for many years to come.

Accommodation center

In 1959 Marguerite Pirard donated the domain to the Archdiocese of Mechelen by bequest. Since then, it has been a youth accommodation center that especially school groups and youth associations enjoy during forest or country classes, reflection days, holiday or weekend camps. Meanwhile, about 200,000 people have wonderful childhood memories of Roosendael.

Today, overnight tourists, hikers and cyclists can also come to the domain for relaxation, cultural experience and gentle recreation. Moreover, Roosendael opens its doors to workshops and seminars and parties of associations, families and companies.

After the non-profit organization Roosendael got the domain on a long lease in 1984, a large-scale restoration campaign could start. Various monuments have already been renovated in accordance with all the rules of the art. But the work is far from finished.

Since 2004, the domain has been owned by the vzw Kempens Landschap , which, together with the vzw Roosendael, manages the historical and natural values ​​as one coherent whole, sustainably and in a socially committed manner. This means, among other things: enabling meaningful use of the natural and cultural heritage, continuing care for the monuments and the park, maintaining the nature reserve, creating social employment and... guaranteeing warm hospitality.


Are you curious about more information and facts?
The history of Roosendael was described in a heritage guide. You can order this here for €15,- shipping included.

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