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Abbaye de la Cambre, Brussels Overview

The Abbaye de la Cambre was entrusted to the Cistercian nuns of Brussels. Once the residence of several great abbesses such RĂ©gine, Lady of Beauffort and Marie, Lady of Egmont, the Abbaye de la Cambre was an important institution for young noble-women at one point.

Founded by a local noble-woman in 1196 called Gisele, it is a symbol of resistance during the French Revolution when the Abbaye was greatly suppressed. The structure is also known for housing a cherished oil-painting from the 16th century by Albert Bout titled The Mocking of Christ, in the main abbey. While the structure today is largely a new construction from the 18th century, the church, the refectory and the wing of the capitular hall are still reminiscent of the medieval era they were first built in.

A catholic parish of the Archdiocese of Malines-Brussels, Ter Kameren Abbey as it is called, is home to a community of Norbertine canons. Today a part of the monastery is used as the headquarters of the Belgian National Geographic Institute, while another is used to house a prestigious visual arts school known as La Cambre. This former Cistercian abbey is located in the Maelbeek valley between the Bois de la Cambre and the Ixelles Ponds.

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History of Abbaye de la Cambre

Following the Cistercian rule, the Abbaye de la Cambre was founded by its patroness Gisele in 1196 with the help of monastic community. Over the years and over the course of countless religious wars, the monastery was all but destroyed. Most parts had to be rebuilt in the 18th century, in French style. After the abbey closed down as a monastic site, the building was used as a military school, a hospital, a poor house and a plant to manufacture cotton. In 1921, the League of Friends of La Cambre moved into the abbey to preserve it.

Architecture of Abbaye de la Cambre

abbaye de la cambre, attractions in brussels

Initially built in a Gothic style, the rebuilding process incorporated elements of Neo-Classicalism into the structure. The abbey has two entrances on the Ixelles Pondside, leading to the traditional Gothic abbey church and refectory. The neo-classical abbesses’ residences, constructed in the 18th century open up to a French-style garden, stables and other dependencies.

Things to Do at Abbaye de la Cambre

1. Take a Stroll
gardens, abbaye de la cambre

A haven of peace in the heart of Brussels. The gardens are beautiful and unimaginably calm at 200 m from Avenue Louise. Stroll between the Abbey, the school created by Henri Vandevelde and the national geographical Institute, taking advantage of the beautiful trees and benches of blue beers to rest and disconnect on their moments. The houses nearby present a wonderful opportunity to study the variety of architecture found in the area.

2. Sit by the Lake
ixelles lake, abbaye de la cambre

Of the seven ponds that once were channeled by the Maelbeek stream, only two now remain. The Ixelles pond in Brussels is situated right next to the Abbaye de la Cambre. Many tall trees, an aviary and a set of sculptures decorate this site which has been listed since 1976; it also has a large rockery with imitation rocks, ruins and a truncated column which serve as a backdrop for a waterfall that is unique in Brussels. The surrounds of the pond are suitable for jogging, walking and relaxation, and also host a weekly market.

3. Have a Picnic
The Abbaye provides a nice green spot in Brussels where you can find a bench to enjoy a snack; you can either bring a picnic from home to enjoy in the garden or get some from the nearby places. For food, you can stop by the farmers market held every Saturday and Sunday morning (closes around 2 pm) at Place Flagey. You can find delicious chicken, quiche, cheese, charcuterie, fruit and much more. For drinks pop in at the Carrefour Express on the corner with Rue Lesbroussart.

4. Visit the Church

stained glass, abbaye de la cambre

It is located just outside the center of Brussels, but gives the impression of being situated in the countryside. This very ancient abbey is surrounded by a marvellous garden, and the interior, in Gothic style, is imposing, but at the same time striking for its simplicity.  It is the oldest remaining building of the Abbey which used to be run by Cistercensian nuns. The main entrance of the church was modified in the XVIII century but you can still see the older gothic portal underneath the more modern grey stone structure.

5. See an Exhibition
Founded as the Institut supérieur des Arts décoratifs, and became known as "La Cambre" after the Abbey of la Cambre. This visual arts institute often hosts Art Nouveau exhibitions open to the public.  Some popular activities there include a painting workshop, a sculpture workshop and even a photography workshop. Famous alumni of Le Cambre include Berthe Dubail, Olivier Strebelle and Anthony Vaccarello.

How To Reach Abbaye de la Cambre

  1. Light Rail: 7, 93; 
  2. Metro: 6; (Abbaye De La Cambre)
  3. Bus: 366, 71, W (Abdij Ter Kameren)

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