Please find driving directions and map below the main text
We start with a visit to the birthplace, nowadays a museum, or Father Damien (or St Damien of Molokai) who became world famous for his efforts to improve the fate of the lepers.
At that time leprosy was still a frequently occurring and incurable disease. Damien was shocked at the plight of leprosy patients who were quarantined and sent to the island of Molokai where they received food and other supplies but no medical treatment.
On May 10, 1873 Father Damien, arrived at Kalaupapa, a settlement of 816 lepers. He spoke to the assembled lepers as “one who will be a father to you, and who loves you so much that he does not hesitate to become one of you; to live and die with you”. In addition to serving as a priest and giving medical care he also provided for the material needs of the community: a church, a water reservoir and schools were built, homes were improved and decent funerals were organized for the deceased. Under his leadership a well-organized community was created where human dignity prevailed.
In 1884, after 11 years of working in the colony, he realized he had contracted leprosy himself. Despite the illness he continued his work until his death on 15 April 1889. In 1936 Damien’s body was returned to Belgium and buried in the church of the Congregation of the Sacred Hearts in Leuven. Father Damien was canonized on 11 October 2009 by Pope Benedict XVI.
The Annual General Meeting for members (AGM) and lunch will take place in the restaurant “Het Vennepark” in Tremelo.
After lunch we visit the Herkenrode estate, originally laid out in 1797 as an English garden by the noted architect Ghislain Henry (who also created the park around the Royal Palace in Laken). Later extensions were carried out by others including the famous landscape designer Jacques Wirtz.
Nowadays, the garden contains one of the richest private collections of trees and shrubs, more than 3,000 species of 2,300 different varieties. Highlights include the rhododendrons in bloom (April/May), the roses (June) and autumn colours in October. In the park one can also admire unique monuments such as the Temple of Flora, the Orangery and the Egyptian Pyramid which contains a circular room with alcoves and has an obelisk surmounted by a serpent in bronze devouring its own tail: a symbol of eternity. The estate as well as the adjacent arboretum belong to Viscount Philippe de Spoelberch, who lives in the castle.
Please note that there are no paved footpaths in the garden so wear sturdy and waterproof footwear.
take Haachtsesteenweg (N21)
from Mechelen/Leuven take (N26) until canal bridge (double roundabout), follow direction Haacht (N21,)
third exit (→Keerbergen) at second roundabout
turn left at second traffic lights (→Keerbergen).
After 1,5 km turn right at street bend (→Tremelo),
turn right at traffic lights (→Tremelo).
Look for signposts “Damiaan museum”, “Huize De Veuster” or “Geriatrisch Centrum Damiaan” on your right hand before entering built-up area.