History of the abbey

Farm 'Nooit Rust'

At the time of the French Revolution the Trappists had to flee their abbey in La Trappe, abandoning it. In 1793 a group of these monks arrived in Antwerp. They planned to set sail for Canada, but the Bishop of Antwerp managed to convince them to establish themselves in a small farm at Westmalle. The name of this farm was Nooit Rust (‘Never Rest’), a name that is probably very revealing of the tough manual labour done at the farm and in the fields. Cistercian life officially began at Westmalle on 6 June, 1794 when 10 monks start living at the abbey farm.


Priory becomes abbey

Between 1815 and 1830 the monastery was within the territory of the United Kingdom of the Netherlands, where the government wanted to abolish contemplative orders such as the Trappists. However, the monks of Westmalle manage to prove their usefulness to society by founding a school and establishing a guest house. Although this was a difficult and uncertain period, the community grew and in 1836 the priory’s status was elevated to that of an abbey. 

After a while, construction works were started and around 1900 the abbey took on its current shape. In the 1930s the cow barn was renovated and a new brewery was established in the grounds of the abbey.

  • Abbey church of Westmalle and cemetery
  • Abbey church of Westmalle
  • courtyard garden of Westmalle abbey
  • Sheep grazing around Westmalle abbey
  • Cloister of Westmalle abbey
  • View on the Westmalle abbey's bell tower from the cloister
  • Fountain in the cloister
  • Westmalle abbey's library
  • Monk picking a book in Westmalle abbey's library