The Community

Westmalle Abbey forms part of the Order of Cistercians of the Strict Observance. All communities in the Order maintain ties of mutual solidarity.

Each community is a training school in the art of loving thy neighbour. This love and solidarity is extended to all people of good will, as can be clearly seen in the way visitors are received at the abbey.  

A monk wearing a scapular, the liturgical garment worn on top of the habit.

Admission into the community

If you would like to be admitted to the Westmalle community, you will embark on a five-year training and education process. This time serves as a trial period called ‘formation’ during which your vocation is confirmed and becomes more profound. Afterwards you may choose to make a lasting commitment to the community by making solemn vows.  

A monk helps a brother to adjust the cap of his scapular.

The Vows made by the brothers

An aspirant monk or postulant, who, after his five-year formation period, is ready to commit to the community on a permanent basis makes four solemn vows.

Monks share a meal in silence in the refectory.

Life within the community

Although the brothers have chosen to lead a secluded existence away from the world, they do not live like hermits. They remain in touch with their fellow brothers as well as the wider world; contact that the brothers see as another way of finding God.

Monks saying a prayer of thanks during Eucharist.

A life of prayer

Prayer allows a monk to let go of everyday concerns and to focus his attention on God. 

A painting of Saint Martin who cut up his cloak to dress the poor.


Monks in the Order of Cistercians of the Strict Observance must cover their own costs of living. Any surplus proceeds from the abbey’s production are spent primarily on development projects, both in Belgium and abroad, or to assist individuals in need.

Chapel with altar and prayer benches.

Joining in prayer

Everybody is welcome to join in with the abbey’s communal prayers. Some choose to only attend one of the daily services, such as the Eucharist, the evening service (Vespers) or the closure of the day (Compline). Some visitors join us every day.

If you wish to experience the Liturgy of the Hours observed by the abbey for yourself, you are welcome to stay at the abbey for a few days and take part in the entire daily round of prayers.