Please find driving directions and map below the main text
Our day will start in Kerniel, a formerly independent municipality of Borgloon. There the Mariënlof Abbey excels by its tranquil and timeless beauty and authenticity. The name “Colen” as the abbey is popularly called, refers to Maria van Colen, who founded the abbey for the Order of the Holy Cross in 1438. Since 1822 Cistercian nuns have been living in the abbey. Behind massive walls the few remaining sisters keep alive the canons of their order. The name of Mariënlof Abbey, which started as a convent but got the title of abbey in 1990, means “In praise of Mary”
Besides the architectural value, the rich woodwork & furniture, paintings and stucco, we will be able to admire the shrine of St Odilia in which her relics have been stored since 1292. The 12th century choir stall of St Lutgart, a saint from the medieval Low Countries and patroness of the Flemish movement since the 19th century, is also kept in the Abbey. Legend has it that every woman who sits on this chair will get pregnant within a year. Caution!
When leaving the Abbey one cannot but be impressed by the modern architectural structure “Untitled #158” a work by the British artist Aneas Wilder. The round construction with a beautiful view of 360° is delineated by uniform vertical wooden slats.
We will also pay a short visit to another highlight of the PIT-project or Art in the Open Space of Borgloon: the see-through church or church in honour of the landscape by the Belgian architects and brothers Van Vaerenbergh. “Reading between the lines”, as the monument is called, is made of layers of steel plate in the form of a church typical of the Loon region. Its special construction ensures that the landscape remains visible through the church, both from a distance and nearby. The church is therefore present but at the same time absent in the landscape. Recently, the Guardian declared the monument and its surroundings one of the nicest places in Belgium and a must for tourists from over the Channel.
Lunch will be served at 1 p.m. in the Herestraat 2 restaurant in the village of Duras, part of Sint-Truiden.
After lunch we will have a guided tour of the Castle of Duras and its English landscape garden. The House was built in neoclassical style between 1787 and 1789 on the location of the original castle of the Counts of Duras, built in 1102. The estate grounds cover an area of more than 100 ha, consisting of woods, meadows, ponds, fields and orchards. They also include a watermill and a farm. The House and the grounds have been listed as a protected monument.
The castle was built by the famous van der Noot family who played an important role in the so called “Brabant Revolution” against the Austrian rulers, 1789-1790. The Dinantese architect Ghislain-Joseph Henry designed the façade and the outbuildings. A striking feature of the façade are six Ionic columns, which carry a small dome. The large and impressive reception hall is a central feature around which all other rooms are grouped.
At the end of World War II, the House was hit by a German V1 rocket. Many rooms were badly damaged. Between 1960 and 1962 it was completely restored with the support of the Belgian State and the Count of Liedekercke, whose family still lives here.
Afterwards and for those interested, a farewell drink can be enjoyed at the nearby Wilderen Brewery and Alcohol Distillery (not included in the fee).
Lunch: « Herestraat 2 », Herestraat 2, 3803 Duras (Sint-Truiden). Single course lunch incl. drink and coffee. Vegetarians please notify at registration.
Time to reach by car: From Brussels to Mariënlof – 1h30mins. - From Antwerp to Mariënlof – 1h15mins. Details on the route to follow will be sent in due time to all participants.