History of the priory of Groenendaal
Drawing its origin of a hermitage established in the small wooded valley of Groenendaal since1304, this convent of men was founded by three canons of the St Gudula church in Brussels, thanks to the generosity of the duke of Brabant Jan II . In 1350 the Community joined the Order of St Augustine and Ruusbroec became the first prior. In 1412 the Priory adhered to the Chapter of Windesheim (bishopric of Utrecht). Very early Groenendaal was illustrated by the large number of its writers -whose Ruusbroec was the most famous, copyists, illuminators and bookbinders. Several General Chapters of the Order took place in Groenendaal.
In 1435 the cloister was completely destroyed by a violent fire, but two years later the convent was rebuilt according to a new planning thanks to Duke Philip the Good.
Translation title: Groenendael burnt down and rebuilt / Groenendae afgebrand en weder opgebouwd / Groenendael détruit par un incendie et reconstruit.l
In the 15th and 16th centuries the priory acted as a host to many sovereigns and princes, in particular to Maximilian of Austria, Emperor Charles the Fifth and King Philip II of Spain. Following the religious disorders of the 16th century, which resulted in the looting and fire of the convent by the iconoclasts in 1572, the Augustinians left to reside in their refuge of the Putterie in Brussels. In the 17th century the priory of Groenendaal benefited from a great prosperity thanks to the generosity of Archduchess Isabella, who made many gifts to the community, in particular the beautiful baroque Our Lady of Loreto chapel dominating the southern terrace gardens. The priory of Groenendaal was suppressed the first time by Austrian Emperor Joseph II in 1784, according to a 1783 edict on the so-called unnecessary convents, and most of the buildings were demolished. It should be noted that the lower part of the church nave escaped demolition following a legal action by prior Andreas Van Wilder. The priory was re-established in 1793 and a small number of canons returned to the site to start the reconstruction of certain parts of the convent including the church. But the second French victory over the Austrians in 1795 definitively sealed the fate of the unfortunate priory.
September 2001 / revised March 2010
1st map of the Soignes forest by Van Werden, published in 1659: southern part including Groenendael (infra) & La Hulpe (supra)
(the 3 pictures are from a private collection)