The Belgian Trappist abbey of Westvleteren is located close to Poperinge, in Western Flanders. The abbey brewery produces three kinds of beer that are considered to be among the best beers in the world. These beers are just produced in very small quantities. Individual buyers can purchase directly from the doors of the monastery itself (by appointment only). Alternatively, the beers can be bought at the “In de Vrede” visitor centre, which is situated in front of the abbey, from either the café or the shop.
The earliest information we have about a community of nuns living in Westvleteren Abbey dates back to 1260. In 1372 the nuns left and the land was sold to the Duinenabdij family, only to be resettled during the 17th century by a monastic community belonging to the Order of the Most Holy Spirit. However, this religious community was removed in 1784 by the Austrian Emperor Joseph II. It was only during the winter of 1814, when Jean-Baptiste Victoor left Poperinge and installed himself as a hermit in the woods of the ancient monastery of Saint Sixtus, that a religious presence was re-established in the area. Indeed, a little monastic community grew around Victoor and in 1831 a group of monks from the Mont des Cats Abbey joined him and founded a new community belonging to the Strict Observance. The abbey hosted more than 400,000 allied soldiers during the Great War and suffered many difficulties during the Second World War. After the end of the war, the community decided to reduce its economic activity, mainly the production of beer, to concentrate more on the spiritual life. In 1968, a new church was built in order to preserve the seclusion of the community and the former church was given to the parish and its pilgrims.
At present, there are 26 monks in the Abbey of Westvleteren.
Shop The “In de Vrede” visitor centre has a café and, within the café, a shop. The shop sells Trappist Westvleteren beer (Westvleteren 12 in packs of 6 bottles – subject to availability), abbey pâté or cheese, Kruydekoecke (gingerbread), Trappist tablets, artisanal foods and products from Pahilleke farm, souvenirs, T-shirts and baseball caps.
Restaurant In the visitor centre café it is possible to taste local produce served alongside the Westvleren beers (Westvleteren 6, Westvleteren 8 and Westvleteren 12).
Museum The "Claustrum" is an information area inside the “In de Vrede” visitor centre. In this information area you can find out about abbey life and the daily rituals of the Sint-Sixtus monks. There is also an interactive introduction to the history of the brewery and details of the brewing process.
Visiting Centre “In de Vrede”
opened daily from 10 am.
Closed on Thursdays and Fridays (Friday open in July/Aug)
Closed 2nd half of September
Check on website In de Vrede: http://www.indevrede.be/kalender.php?lang=en
Same hours as visiting Centre.
Same hours as visiting Centre.
The Saint Sixtus abbey is just a few kilometers away from Poperinge – the capital of hops cultivation and living the good life. From hops to the dining table is just a small step and Poperinge offers everything that foodies, hikers and cyclists love: on local restaurant menues you can find “standevleesch”, mazarine cake and hop shoots, always accompanied by a local craft beer. Interested in the brewing process? The Poperinge breweries, Saint Bernard Van Eecke and De Plukker, are happy to show you how hops are transformed into delicious beers.
Memories of the Great War
The nearby city of Ypres is a charming place for you to discover. The memory of the Great War is kept alive in both the museums and the area’s historic sites. The medieval character of Ypres can be experienced in the town’s cosy centre or on its ramparts. Ypres has the facilities to accommodate everyone’s needs, so why not stop by the Ypres and Westhoek Visitor Centre, located in the western wing of the Cloth Hall, and find out what you could be doing.
The whole region offers many hiking and cycling routes which lead you along country roads, hop fields, “church paths”, forests and fields. The many British cemeteries and war relics, which you will see, recall the region’s past as the site of much front-line fighting during World War I. An especially pleasant route – the Saint Sixtus Walk – begins at the abbey and guides you through 7.1 km of gently rolling landscape. Should you be feeling particularly energetic it’s possible, in just 17km, to reach the Trappist abbey of Mont des Cats, in France.
Do you want to know more? Visit www.toerismevleteren.be
More ideas for your visit at Flanders you will find on www.visitflanders.com
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