Manual labour

Monks do not work for commercial reasons. Rather, the work is aimed at funding their lives. The Rule of St Benedict says that monasteries must be self-sufficient and independent.

St Benedict was also of the opinion that monks should not be idle - they should roll up their sleeves and get stuck in. Work also contributes to the formation of a human being as a whole; it is a condition for spiritual growth. Moreover, manual labour is an outlet for the monks’ creativity. 

A typesetter at work in the abbey’s book workshop.

Why manual labour?

The Rule of St Benedict says that monks have to fund their own costs of living. The manual labour that makes this possible also contributes to their personal development as a basis for spiritual growth.

A brother sells a Trappist cheese at the abbey gate.

Daily work

The monks of Westmalle have traditionally been self-sufficient. This is why there is a bakery, a farm, a cheesemaker’s and a brewery within the abbey walls. Only the cheese and the beer are sold to the public.

Sheep and hens ranging freely across a meadow inside the abbey walls.

The farm

Westmalle Abbey was founded in an ancient farm. Ever since the abbey’s birth in 1794, the daily life of the monks has involved farming. Nowadays the farm primarily produces milk for use in the abbey’s own Trappist cheese.

A monk places a freshly baked loaf on the rack.

The bakery

Westmalle Abbey has recently added a bakery. The bread that comes out of the modern brick oven is primarily served at the monks’ own table and to their guests. 

A fresh Trappist cheese is readied for steeping in brine.

The cheese dairy

Not only is Westmalle Abbey home to a brewery and a farm, since 1870 it has also housed a cheese workshop. The monks produce a semi-hard, mature cheese primarily for their own consumption. You can also buy the cheese at the abbey gate and from cheese stores and butcher’s shops.

The brewmaster at Westmalle adds real hop cones to the boiling kettle.

The brewery

Westmalle Abbey is renowned for its Trappist beer. Its fame has spread far beyond Belgium’s borders. The brewery is the main source of income for the monks and enables them to support themselves and more. Thanks to the brewery, the monks can also offer hospitality and fund charitable works. The abbey supports monasteries in need as well as a range of development projects both in Belgium and abroad.